A WOMEN’S Edinburgh derby with players as young as 14 and 15 had to be called off after a mass brawl broke out on the pitch just minutes before the final whistle.
The punch-up took place in the dying minutes of a Hearts and Hibs women’s reserve team clash featuring several youth players at Foresters Park in Tranent.
The incident, which happened last Sunday, occurred at about the game’s 85th minute following an altercation between two rival players.
The scuffle prompted parents and coaches from both sides to rush over the touchline before trading blows on the pitch.
It is understood the referee tried to bring the situation under control but was unable to do so, resulting in the match being abandoned.
One spectator, who did not want to be named, said he was shocked at what he had witnessed, particularly as some of the players were so young.
He said: “It was in the 85th minute. Hibs were two-nil up and one of the Hearts strikers went up for a challenge and caught one of the Hibs defenders with her elbow. It looked accidental.
“As soon as she got up, the Hibs defender got up and started punching her. At this point the parents of the Hearts player ran up, then the Hibs parents ran on, and they were all fighting.
“It was an absolute disgrace what happened.”
The witness said after the parents ran on, a number of coaches on both sides got involved in the bust-up.
They added: “The ref had to try and pull it apart.
“It was for about ten minutes – parents going at each other and throwing punches, it was just a nightmare. The ref just walked off and the coaches finally got it under control.
“You are supposed to be young girls playing football and enjoying yourself.
“You don’t have to be friends but you don’t have to fight on the pitch.
“If you were a neutral watching that game you would be shocked at what happened, you’d want to see repercussions but nothing like that seems to have happened.
“I don’t think something will happen, but they should be getting banned.
“They are all one step below playing for the Hibs team and the Hearts team – you have to set an example.”
He said it was particularly disappointing that coaches were also among those fighting, adding: “It isn’t the best advertisement for women’s football.”
Police confirmed they were not called to the development squads clash, which kicked off at 2pm. At least five of the Hearts side were said to have been aged 15 or under.
It is understood the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has been made aware of the incident and is looking into the possibility of disciplinary action. Scottish Women’s Football is also understood to have been notified.
A Hearts spokesman said: “Heart of Midlothian Women and Girls is an organisation independent of the club itself and as such, we have no real right to comment in this instance.
“That said, we have been working very closely with the organisation in the last 12 months or so to offer support wherever possible.
“The club was unaware of this incident and we do not condone violence either on or off the field.
“However, we understand that this was a one-off incident, with a particular set of circumstances and as such, we will be working closely with the Hearts team to give them any required guidance and assistance they may seek.”
A spokesman for Hibernian said it would be inappropriate to comment.