Hampden Riot, 2016: The SFA Must Pay
If you're looking to apportion blame to any party for the disgusting scenes witnessed at Hampden at the end of Hibs' dramatic victory, look no further than the host's themselves.
Article 28.2 of the Scottish Football Association's Articles of Association states: "A recognised football body which is directly responsible for organising a match under its jurisdiction shall [likewise; in reference to Article 28.1] take all such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure the safety, good conduct and behaviour of spectators at such match."
As suggested by Rangers, in a exceptional strongly worded statement on Sunday, the Scottish Football Association have failed to do everything as reasonably practicable to ensure the safety and behaviour of all spectators at Hampden during the Scottish Cup final.
Even though it was the supporters of Hibernian who instigated all of the illegal actions, ultimately blame and responsibility cannot lie with them, or their club. If you were to create a 'WHY' tree, often used within the game of Health and Safety to investigate unsafe acts and incidents, the SFA would be at top of the tree.
- A minority of Rangers supporters entered the pitch and engaged in fighting with a minority of supporters of Hibernian. Why? Because they were being provoked and intimidated by those supporters of Hibernian, some of whom were attacking Rangers' players, staff and fans.
- A number of Rangers players and staff were assaulted and/or injured by supporters of Hibernian. Why? Because thousands of Hibernian supporters had been allowed to charge on to the pitch to celebrate, and quite a few thugs took that opportunity with both fists.
- Thousands of Hibernian supporters were allowed to enter the pitch, resulting in damage to the pitch and the goals, on top of the aforementioned assaulting of Rangers' players and staff. Why? Because there was no one there to stop them.
- The match security arrangements were not fit for purpose, enabling the initial charge by Hibernian supporters to take place. Why? Because the Scottish Football Association did not do all as reasonably practicable to ensure the safety and behaviour of all spectators.
As well as flaunting their very own Articles of Association, you would have to assume that there will be legal ramifications, and a potential liability claim from Rangers themselves, for the SFA to face. As host's of the Scottish Cup final at Hampden, I think I'm right in saying that the SFA owed a duty of care to all players, staff and officials? As well as to all those well-behaved, and terrified, supporters who remained in the stands (as far as I'm concerned all those who entered the pitch did so at their own risk and are owed nothing as a result).
As Rangers also alluded to in their damning statement, the Scottish Football Association have seemingly battened down the hatches, possibly hoping to see out the storm. Presumably all Rangers supporters will be glad to see that Rangers have made it abundantly clear that they will not allow that to happen, even if much of the media continue to seek to change the narrative. After reading the morning papers, it seems that most want to drag all Rangers supporters down to the level of the few hundred violent thugs of Hibernian persuasion, which is unacceptable.
Rangers themselves, and many who were in attendance, have stated that the minority of Rangers supporters who did enter the pitch only did so following intense provocation and intimidation and to protect their own players. I wasn't at the match, so it's impossible to pass judgement on those who did enter the pitch, but the realist within me can't help but think that there weren't a few thuggish opportunists who just wanted a rammy, and happily took advantage of the police, match security and SFA's loss of control. It's important to make it clear here that I'm not suggesting that Rangers are in the wrong and that are supporters are to blame. It is a basic human nature to lash out when provoked, or intimidated. Any psychologist could tell you that.
Nor am I suggesting all Hibernian supporters entering the pitch did so to provoke, intimidate and assault. Scotland and Scottish football is littered with hate-fuelled, drunken thugs, and probably always will be. Football always seem to bring out the best and worst in our society and this dramatic and exciting Scottish Cup final was no different.
So what now?
Rangers have to ensure that any of our own supporters who went beyond absolutely necessary means of protecting themselves, their players and their staff, are identified and suitably punished for their illegal actions. If we want to regain our place at the top of Scottish football, we have to be exemplary and set the standard. Mindless violence is never acceptable, especially not at a football match.
Hibernian have to formally apologise to Rangers for the injuries and assaults sustained by their players and staff, as well as the genuine stress and concern experienced by all the Rangers supporters who feared for their safety. It's the very least they should do to try and ensure their famous Scottish Cup win is remembered for what it was within the 90 minutes. Every Hibernian supporter proven to have provoked, intimidated and assaulted must be identified and properly dealt with.
The Scottish Football Association have to come out and take full responsibility for the entire terrible event. What hope do they have of creating a safe environment for all football supporters, at all matches, in order to promote and grow the national game in Scotland, if they cannot set the example themselves.
Finally, the relevant authorities have to severely punish the Scottish Football Association for this shocking and unacceptable incident.
The SFA have to pay.