Don’t punish my team, pleads Alan Stubbs

Police officers set up a cordon as Hibs supporters run on to the Hampden pitch to celebrate. Picture: SNS
Police officers set up a cordon as Hibs supporters run on to the Hampden pitch to celebrate. Picture: SNS
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HIBERNIAN manager Alan Stubbs has expressed the hope his players will be spared from any punishment meted out to the Easter Road club for the pitch invasion, crowd disorder and assaults on Rangers players and staff which marred their historic Scottish Cup triumph on Saturday.

The Scottish FA and Police Scotland have launched investigations into the scenes which followed Hibs’ dramatic 3-2 victory over the Ibrox side as they won the trophy for the first time since 1902.

Stewart Regan, the SFA chief executive, described the incidents as “contemptible” and an “embarrassment for Scottish football”, while former Rangers player Alex MacDonald, who was at Hampden, said last night that Hibs should be prevented from competing in next season’s Europa League as a form of punishment.

Hibs fans poured on to the pitch at the full-time whistle, many of them running towards the remaining Rangers support at the other end of the ground. Fighting broke out among some rival groups, while several Rangers players and backroom staff members were physically confronted and struck.

The goalposts at the Hibs end were broken, while large chunks of turf were ripped up. It took mounted police and stewards around 50 minutes to restore order and clear the pitch sufficiently before Hibs could formally be presented with the Scottish Cup.

Rangers received their runners-up medals in their dressing room and departed Hampden without taking part in any post-match media duties.

Hibs now face an anxious wait to learn the consequences of Saturday’s events. The SFA’s disciplinary rules into crowd disorder include a range of sanctions, including fines of up to £1 million at the top end of the scale.

Sporting sanctions are also possible, including annulling the result of the match and exclusion from the Scottish Cup.

In that event, it would also see Hibs lose their place in the Europa League next season.

On the basis Hibs will be able to prove they took all reasonable and practicable pre-match measures to ensure the good conduct of their support, those extreme measures are probably unlikely to be imposed.

As the match was at Hampden, the Scottish FA themselves hold the ultimate responsibility for security and ground safety and will have to assess their own planning and preparations.

The investigation will also consider flares let off in the Rangers end of the ground and several instances of sectarian chanting by their supporters.

Stubbs insists any action taken against Hibs should not impact upon the achievement of his players.

“They are not to blame,” said Stubbs. “It is going to be difficult and we are just going to have to wait and see what the ramifications are and the fall-out from the game. Whatever it is, we will have to take it on the chin or see if we can somehow get around it.”

Stubbs expressed regret over the instances of Rangers players being struck at the end of the game amid the chaotic scenes which also prevented him consoling his counterpart Mark Warburton and assistant David Weir.

“I don’t condone that whatsoever,” said Stubbs. “If that’s the case, it is very poor. No-one at this club, the players, everybody, we don’t condone it whatsoever, we don’t condone any of the scenes afterwards.

“But I am sure once the people in charge and all the departments come together, the most important thing is that they come together with a decision that we don’t see things like that again and we learn from it.

“Everything was cut short at the end – speaking to Mark, David and their staff, commiserating with their players. I never had the chance to do that. I always do that because we have tasted how it feels to lose in the final and it’s not nice.”

At the open-top bus parade yesterday, Stubbs revealed that he had since been in touch with Weir. “David texted me last night,” explained the Hibs manager. “He congratulated me and said we thoroughly deserved the victory. I replied back to him and said I thought it was a pretty close game and it could have gone either way at one point.

“I said ‘good luck and have a well earned rest’, because they have still had a great season.”

Stubbs’ hope that his team are spared any punishment is not shared by MacDonald, the former Rangers player who won two Trebles at Ibrox in the 1970s and who, along with ex-Hibs player Tony Higgins, paraded the Scottish Cup in front of fans ahead of kick-off on Saturday.

MacDonald described the scenes as “absolutely shocking” and insists that Hibs should not be allowed to play in Europe next season. The Easter Road club are due to enter the Europa League at the second qualifying round on 14 July following the victory over Rangers.

“Hibs should be kicked out of Europe for what happened on Saturday. It was absolutely shocking,” said MacDonald. “They don’t deserve to represent Scotland in Europe after the behaviour of the fans.

“I don’t care about this notion that they were just celebrating the cup win. It was much more than that. Action has to be taken because we just can’t have that in our game.”