SFA chief executive Stewart Regan last night branded the scenes sparked by thousands of Hibernian supporters invading the Hampden pitch following the club’s historic Scottish Cup success as “truly shocking” and “the worst incident of its kind I’ve seen” inside a British football ground.
It is believed that five Rangers players and assistant manager David Weir were assaulted by marauding fans, many rushing to the opposite end of the ground to taunt their rivals. Pockets of fighting could be witnessed before mounted police entered the arena to restore calm – bringing back bitter memories of the 1980 Scottish Cup final riot. None of skirmishing descended into violence on that scale, but the pitch and the goal frame at the Hibs end were wrecked.
“It’s truly shocking, it was appalling to see fans on the pitch in the way they were,” Regan said. “The damage caused, the disruption to what was a fantastic football match, it’s all taken the gloss off what should have been a memorable occasion for Hibernian, so we’re all really disappointed.
“I’m very shocked and very upset about it all. It’s difficult to try and jump to conclusions about what could have been done. We had a full operational plan. We had over 1,000 police and stewards there. The Hampden Park management team and Police Scotland have worked together to put in place all provisions for a Category C Increased Risk match – the risk was raised at the request of the police and the team prepared accordingly.”
Regan said it was too early to draw conclusions about whether security measures were inadequate – a claim made by Rangers, with Mark Warburton and his players not returning to collect their medals.
“We now have to review what’s happened,” Regan said. “We are meeting immediately with police, with the stadium management team, and we’ll be identifying what has happened and where the responsibility lies. I’m very shocked.
“It’s fair to say that when you have 20,000 fans who have been waiting for a trophy the way Hibs fans have, the minute you get fans coming on the pitch it becomes very difficult to stop the sheer numbers coming over the fences.
“It’s embarrassing for Scottish football. It’s not what we want the Scottish Cup final remembered for. I want to apologise to the Rangers board, to the Rangers players – and to the Hibs players as well, because the gloss has been taken off their achievement.
“I watched from the directors’ box and saw what was happening on the pitch. The Hibernian fans were moving towards the Rangers fans. It’s fair to say the police and stadium management team responded very quickly and contained the situation. Police and the stadium management will be looking at video footage and will be identifying why so many fans got over on to the pitch and what – if anything – could have been done differently.”
Regan was reluctant to contemplate what sanctions Hibs could face, but added: “We’ll identify the facts and find out what happened, then take appropriate steps. In the UK it’s one of the worst incidents of its kind I’ve seen.”
Hibernian chairman Rod Petrie sought to play down the gravity of the scenes. He had little truck with the suggestion that a very perilous situation had been created by the pitch invasion.
“I think saying it was a very perilous situation is an exaggeration in terms of what it was but I’m happy to participate with the SFA in the review after the event and look at everything that happened,” Petrie said.
“I’d call it a disappointment, an embarrassment. I wish it hadn’t happened. I don’t think it’s something which will reflect well on the game. As a club we take responsibility for participating in the event here and what happened.
“I don’t think I’m underestimating it or playing down anything that’s happened here. What happened was that a team won the cup and almost the minute the final whistle went the over-exuberance from a number of supporters took them on to the pitch, which is unacceptable. It’s not something anyone would condone and I’m sorry it happened.
Petrie said he was “not aware of any complaint” from Rangers over their players being assaulted. “If something has happened to a player or member of staff then that’s a very serious matter. We’ll co-operate fully,” he said.