Rangers demand '˜urgent' talks with SFA over pitch invasion report

Rangers have demanded 'urgent' talks with the Scottish Football Association and the author of a report into the cup final pitch invasion after claiming there were 'factual inaccuracies and contradictions' in the document.

Hibs fans celebrate winning the Scottish Cup on the Hampden pitch. Picture: Neil Hanna

The SFA released the 52-page report, written by Edward Bowen, a Sheriff Principal from Lothian and Borders, on the evening before Rangers kick off the new Ladbrokes Premiership season against Hamilton in the first top-flight match at Ibrox in four years.

The club released a limited statement given the timing but they have called for a meeting after the report detailed a number of recommendations following the violence on the pitch after the William Hill Scottish Cup final, which was sparked by Hibernian’s late winner. Both sets of fans clashed on the pitch and a number of Rangers players were allegedly assaulted.

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Bowen said he was satisfied both clubs and the SFA took reasonable precautions to minimise the possibility of a pitch invasion.

Promising further comment after considering the findings, a Rangers statement read: “At present we wish to do nothing that might detract from the team’s first match back in Scottish football’s top flight.

“We can state however that we will be seeking an urgent meeting with the author of the report, Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen, the Scottish FA’s chief executive Stewart Regan and his compliance officer, Tony McGlennan.

“It is imperative that we gain insight into the underlying basis for the findings in the report given that we consider it contains a number of factual inaccuracies and contradictions. It is right that the club gives the author and requisitioner of the report the opportunity to comment on our concerns prior to making a conclusive statement.

“It is to be hoped that the Scottish FA, as they begin considering this report and the appropriate punishments, remember vividly what actually occurred on Saturday, May 21, 2016 at the National Stadium when Hibernian fans were allowed to invade the field of play and attack Rangers players and staff, who were offered little protection.”

The SFA announced the independent commission would be set up soon after the final, and McGlennan will now look into disciplinary proceedings.

Regan said: “We are pleased SP Bowen acknowledges that the processes and procedures of the match operation were robust.

“Nevertheless, we will work closely with the other parties involved to ensure the commission’s findings are clearly and consistently understood.”

Bowen made nine recommendations, several relating to measures designed to give Hampden greater physical protection against possible pitch invasions, including improvements to the “moats” around the perimeter, electronic gates, and the installation of a retractable tunnel.

He also called for specific warnings and legislation to deter supporters from encroaching on to pitches; encouraged clubs to appoint supporter liaison officers; urged football authorities to be strict with players who leave the pitch to “engage physically” with supporters; and advised Police Scotland to have a reserve of officers to form a line on the pitch immediately after the final whistle in high-risk games.

Hibs declined to comment on the report.