The pitch invasion which followed Hibs’ historic Scottish Cup triumph was caused by no more than the “exceptionally high degree of excitement” amongst Easter Road fans, a report into the events at Hampden on May 21 has concluded.
But, while Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen QC, who conducted the inquiry, ruled that the vast majority of supporters who did so in a spirit of jubilation, around 200 behaved in a manner which went well beyond “a manifestation of high spirits.”
He has now recommended the Scottish Government should consider making it a specific criminal offence to run onto a football pitch.
Sheriff Bowen ruled that there were incidents involving direct physical confrontation with Rangers players which included the hurling of obscene language and sectarian abuse.
However, he also found that during the match, police had become aware of the discharge of pyrotechnics and the singing of sectarian songs in the west stand occupied by Rangers supporters although on the final whistle, after Hibs skipper David Gray had scored the winning goal in the 3-2 victory, the majority of them behaved properly and left the stadium.
A small number, though, allowed themselves to be taunted by the Hibs fans to the point of invading the pitch for the “purpose of physical confrontation.”
Sheriff Bowden, though, believes the SFA, Hibs, Rangers, Police Scotland and G4S staff had done all that was asked of them.
The SFA compliance officer Tony McGlennan will now launch his own investigation into the pitch invasion before a decision is taken on what sanctions, if any, will fall on the clubs.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan commented: “The Scottish FA is grateful to Sheriff Principal Bowen for producing such a comprehensive independent review of the circumstances immediately following the William Hill Scottish Cup final. The Board received first sighting at its meeting yesterday and we will consider the report in greater detail in early course. 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. “In the meantime, the Compliance Officer will now proceed with the investigation into the cup final from the perspective of the Judicial Panel Protocol.
“We are committed to ensuring that there is no repeat of the scenes that detracted from this showpiece occasion and will give full consideration to the recommendations set out by SP Bowen in respect of the Scottish FA’s future planning of major sporting events under our jurisdiction.”