Rangers “shocked” after Hibs escape cup final punishment

The aftermath of the Scottish Cup final was marred by a pitch invasion. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The aftermath of the Scottish Cup final was marred by a pitch invasion. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

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Rangers have hit out at the Scottish Football Association after both themselves and Hibernian escaped punishment over the William Hill Scottish Cup final pitch invasion.

The Ibrox club demanded “urgent clarification” on player safety issues after SFA disciplinary charges were thrown out by a judicial panel on Wednesday.

The panel stressed that clubs could not be automatically punished for supporters’ misbehaviour under the SFA disciplinary rules – members voted against “strict liability” in 2013.

But Rangers say they remain baffled as to why there was no mention of alleged attacks on their players and officials in the SFA charges. Both clubs originally faced charges over damage to advertising equipment, while Hibs also saw complaints over damage to the pitch and goalposts thrown out.

A lengthy Rangers response followed a Scottish Government warning that it could intervene to enforce a stricter approach from football authorities to tackling crowd trouble.

The Rangers statement read: “The club has been left shocked by the SFA’s approach to this vital safety issue and by the decision not to seek sanctions in respect of the assaults by Hibernian supporters on Rangers players and officials at the end of the cup final last May.

“The Scottish FA must have a basic duty of care to ensure the safety of players and officials in matches played in their competitions and at Hampden.”

They claimed the nature of the SFA charges were “fundamentally flawed” and added: “Rangers are concerned that adopting this approach will not dissuade supporters of other clubs from coming on to the field of play and/or assaulting players and officials.”

The Ibrox club claimed they were “astonished” by the fact that Rod McKenzie, the principal legal adviser to the Scottish Professional Football League, represented Hibs in their hearing and also criticised Hibs chairman Rod Petrie, who is the SFA vice-president.

The statement added: “Using the legal adviser to one of Scottish football’s two governing bodies to defend charges brought by the other is worrying enough for those concerned with the good governance and integrity of Scottish football, but it is even more disturbing when the party at the centre of the conflict also has a foot in both camps and is scheduled to become the SFA’s president.

“Rangers are also extremely disappointed at Mr Petrie’s continued failure to issue an apology in respect of the assaults on our players and officials.”

The SFA was earlier warned to tighten up its disciplinary procedures, although neither the governing body nor the SPFL board cannot force strict liability on members.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The disorder that marred the Scottish Cup final was unacceptable and we are disappointed by this outcome.

“It is essential that robust, meaningful measures are in place to allow such behaviour to be dealt with effectively.

“Independent research shows that fans overwhelmingly support the goal of eradicating offensive behaviour from matches.

“We have been clear that we will take steps if the progress we need to see isn’t being made. Our preference remains that football should proactively deliver a solution and we are continuing to work closely with the authorities and clubs to encourage them to do so.”

Any direct interference in the SFA’s workings would not be popular with FIFA - the world governing body has issued bans to nations whose governments have become too closely involved in the affairs of football federations.

More than 70 people have been arrested over the violent scenes which took place after Hibernian’s late 3-2 victory earned their first Scottish Cup win since 1902. Hibs welcomed the panel’s decision on Wednesday and paid for damage caused to the pitch.

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