LAST Saturday, Hibernian FC, in what must be one of the most exciting finals ever to have been played at Hampden Park, finally won the Scottish Cup.
Their jubilant fans wasted no time in racing on to the pitch in their thousands to celebrate their injury-time winner against Rangers.
Sadly, some also targeted the Rangers players and goaded the Rangers support. In no time at all battles had broken out.
Shameful scenes were beamed live, becoming a major breaking news item.
Hibs may have won the cup, but in doing so they had unwittingly unleashed the pent-up storm clouds of football hooliganism. The trouble had eclipsed their team’s remarkable victory.
Time didn’t stand still that afternoon, it turned back.
I had, over recent years, forgotten just how explosive and dangerous these occasions could become. I had dropped my guard.
So, it seems, had the organisers of the cup final, especially those responsible for looking after player and crowd safety.
Sadly, unlike the torn-up pitch and wrecked goalposts, the damage will take years to repair.
The blame game between all involved was as expected as it was instant. So too were the denials and the defending of the indefensible.
The indifference shown by the Hibs chairman Rod Petrie over his fans’ behaviour was truly shocking.
Not to issue an instant apology or to express concern for the Rangers players allegedly being attacked was deplorable.
He eventually did, two days later – yet another example of doing too little too late.
Rangers, as expected, wasted no time in issuing their response. An indignant, defensive rant which did more damage than good, destroying any chance they had of taking the moral high-ground.
Thankfully the club has now said it will take severe action against all those involved. Again, too little too late!
Timing and planning are everything. Get it right, then an event will generally run like clockwork, get it wrong . . . well, expect trouble.
Why was there not a thick ring of police and stewards already lining the stadium when the final whistle blew? And why did it take them so long to arrive?
The truth must be told and the time for doing so is now not months from now at an inquiry.
The SFA didn’t waste any time in condemning all those involved in this shameful day, nor did it waste any time in putting the wheels in motion for an inquiry.
Will it sanction itself if it is found to be at fault?
But there is no doubt in my mind we must call time on even thinking about allowing the sale of alcohol back into stadiums.
As a city centre pub and club owner, I know staff have to deal with those too drunk and stupid to know their limit.
Many were already charged up on cheap supermarket booze before the match, but can you imagine the carnage if Hampden had bars open during the actual game.
The result would have been calls for a city centre shutdown for the sale of alcohol on match days, penalising safe, well-run establishments.
The French will be doing it on certain match-days featuring England at next month’s Euros.
Now that’s a measure we do not want to see being brought in here as it really would be blowing the final whistle on the pub trade.
Rangers 2 Hibs 3: History boys end 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo
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