Smith says police were slow to act at Ham­p­den

Former SFA chief ex­ec­u­tive crit­i­cal of force after fight­ing mars show­piece


GOR­DON SMITH, the former SFA chief ex­ec­u­tive, last night crit­i­cised Police Scot­land for their “very slow” re­sponse to the pitch in­va­sion at the end of the Wil­liam Hill Scot­tish Cup fi­nal at Ham­p­den on Satur­day.

And Smith, who was at the game be­tween his former club Rangers and even­tual win­ners Hibs at the na­tional sta­dium, ad­mit­ted he was re­lieved the out­break of crowd trou­ble didn’t have far more se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions.

Thou­sands of the Easter Road club’s sup­port­ers forced their way past stew­ards and police of­fi­cers and onto the play­ing sur­face after Alan Stubbs’s side had come from 2-1 down to win the cup fi­nal 3-2 at the week­end.

Sev­eral Rangers play­ers were phys­i­cally as­saulted by Hibs fans as they made their way off the field and many of the Ibrox club’s sup­port­ers then spilled onto the park and be­came in­volved in vi­o­lent scuf­fles.

Smith, who played for Rangers in the 1980 Scot­tish Cup fi­nal against Celtic that ended in a riot which led to al­co­hol be­ing banned from foot­ball grounds in this coun­try, was un­im­pressed with how the police re­acted.

“I must be hon­est, I thought the police were very slow,” he said. “They have ob­vi­ously not an­tic­i­pated what was go­ing to hap­pen. Their re­ac­tion to what was hap­pen­ing was very, very slow.

“It’s shock­ing that Rangers play­ers were as­saulted and it only high­lights how bad the re­sponse to the pitch in­va­sion was. That should never hap­pen.

“I think it was for­tu­nate on the day that most of the Rangers fans were on their way out of the sta­dium be­cause they had lost. If the Rangers fans had still been there in great num­bers at that point then, with the way the Hibs fans have gone across and tried to an­tag­o­nise them with ges­tures, it could have been a lot worse.

“Yes, there were a num­ber of Rangers fans who came on and there was a bit of trou­ble there, but it could have been a lot worse. It was for­tu­nate that we haven’t had more peo­ple in­jured than ac­tu­ally were.

“It spoiled a great day. I can un­der­stand the ex­cite­ment of the Hibs fans about the whole thing. It was a mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion. But their be­hav­iour should have been a lot bet­ter.”

The SFA con­firmed after the match that they would launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the alarm­ing events in con­junc­tion with Police Scot­land and Ham­p­den Sta­dium man­age­ment.

Smith, who served as SFA chief ex­ec­u­tive from 2007 to 2010, be­lieves that Hibs are cer­tain to face “strong sanc­tions” as a re­sult of the dis­or­der when the in­quiry has been car­ried out.

“It is a shame, but clubs get blamed for the be­hav­iour of their sup­port­ers,” he said. “You feel sorry for them. What else can they do? They can’t an­tic­i­pate that sort of thing hap­pen­ing.

“They might want to make strong sanc­tions. It spoiled the day. It was a great oc­ca­sion. You don’t want to see fans get­ting away with things like that. From that point of view, there could be strong sanc­tions from the SFA.

“The club nor­mally does carry the can. It is un­for­tu­nate the club does be­cause very of­ten you think ‘what can they do about sup­port­ers?’ Hibs couldn’t have done any more. They couldn’t have an­tic­i­pated what was hap­pen­ing there.

“But the club does suf­fer. The sanc­tions which are put in place could be se­ri­ous for Hibs. It will be a shame if it does hap­pen when you con­sider what a great and mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion it was.

“I don’t doubt that sanc­tions will be taken against Hiber­nian be­cause of the be­hav­iour of their fans. I ac­cept that not all of the Hibs fans are to blame, but some of them are and they spoiled what should have been a great day. We can’t have that in Scot­tish foot­ball.”

Smith was as­ton­ished to wit­ness in­ci­dents sim­i­lar to those which took place fol­low­ing the Old Firm Scot­tish Cup fi­nal in 1980 when a Ge­orge McCluskey goal in ex­tra-time gave Celtic vic­tory and sparked a pitch in­va­sion.

“Hav­ing played in the 1980 fi­nal I never thought I would see th­ese scenes again but here we are 36 years later,” he said.

“As I say, it was for­tu­nate that so many of the Rangers fans had left be­cause the Hibs fans had gone down the pitch look­ing for con­fronta­tion.

“If there had been a big­ger num­ber of Rangers fans there might have been scenes like 1980 again. So thank­fully it was not as bad as it might have been, but there is no es­cap­ing the fact that it has tar­nished our game very badly.”

UN­DER CON­TROL: HIber­nian sup­port­ers are sent back to­wards their area of the ground but the length of time it took po­lice to re­store or­der has been heav­ily crit­i­cised in the af­ter­math of Satur­day’s Scot­tish Cup fi­nal.

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