Date: 5th August 2016
The Cup Final Review – a review of the review
So the report on the Scottish Cup Final has finally completed by Edward F Bowen QC and its findings published today. So what does it tell us ordinary fans and more importantly what impact will the recommendations have on the future of cup finals in years ahead.
The report is well worth a read and if you have never been involved or understood the match day procedures that apply to every fixture across Scotland no matter the size it helps paint a picture of pre match organisation. The superb and mostly unseen work being down ( mostly by volunteers) by the Football Safety Officers Association Scotland pre match in planning for each public event shows just how much work goes into organising stewards, police, and other safety organisations and that is a good thing.
The conclusions in truth could have been written weeks ago and really don’t tell us anything that we don’t know. The primary responsibility was with Hampden Park Ltd which is owned by the SFA so a delegated responsibility for ground safely. It looks like all that could be done was done and that the right level of stewards and police were employed. Ticket allocations were dealt with correctly but reference to the clubs interaction with Ultra Groups seemed like it was coming off a tick list from UEFA and is certainly not something either of the clubs would claim to be pioneers in achieving.
The Report concludes that the players running into the fans is not a good thing when your team have not one the cup in over 100 years scored and there is just 90 second left on the clock. Thereafter, the poor stadium design and the unexpected circumstances of Hibs winning contributed to the field invasion. None of the invasion was planned which I guess is a good thing as the days of organised hooliganism is something we never want to return.
So let’s get t the recommendations and see what they mean for fans.
9.1. In the light of the above my recommendations are as follows:
9.1.1. In relation to the stadium itself, consideration should be given to replacing the wires within the “moats” with one of the alternative products commercially available which are less easy to stand on. As observed in paragraph 8.4.3 above, I have not had the opportunity, within the time available, to afford specific consideration to which alternative product is to be preferred;
Do we want to be watching games through a mesh fence I don’t think so but there would be a concern if this was a direction of travel to be considered?
9.1.2. Consideration should be given to the installation of electronic gates which may be opened centrally in the case of emergency. I make this suggestion with a view to relieving individual stewards of the responsibility of determining when and in what circumstances it may be appropriate to allow spectators to proceed towards the pitch. I understand that such a centralised system exists elsewhere. Again, I have not had an opportunity to examine this alternative or to consider all the implications of it. I can see merit in the suggestion that it adds to the “sanctity” of the field of play;
Makes sense from a safety perspective. Maybe some of the sums that Hampden Park Limited makes from concerts can be reinvested in this. A wider perspective is why there is a need for a separate stadium operating company, what overview is of it and what its purpose is in 2016 in relation to the Scottish Game. Do we still need it, what does it reinvest in the game and is there an alternative model for the national stadium?
9.1.3. Consideration should be given to the installation of a retractable tunnel to make the entry and exit of players and officials onto the field of play more secure;
I am sure it offers another marketing /sponsorship opportunity for another beer or betting company to get some branding at the tournament and if it helps player safety then it should be considered.
9.1.4. Consideration should be given to the installation of handrail or similar clearly delineating a pedestrian/ wheelchair walkway on the South West access tunnel to the Stadium;
Again if it helps safety then just do it!
9.1.5. More specific warnings should be given to football supporters to the effect that it is unacceptable to encroach onto the pitch. Such an action should be specifically described as “unacceptable conduct” in the SFA Unacceptable Conduct Policy. It should be made clear that mass incursions onto the pitch, however innocently intentioned, serve as an impetus for disorderly behaviour and a screen for violence by a minority;
There are generally two types of intrusions ones which rarely happen where naughty chaps fancy a bit of taunting and the other more organic celebratory celebrations which pass off without incident. Think of the Killie fans celebrating the play off victory against Falkirk where 4000 or so came on the park and nothing untoward happened. Unless the warnings are backed up with something more specific then they are on deaf ears. What will the SFA do, put it on the web site, make an announcement and say we did our bit? The reality is that they are so far removed from fans and fans groups that there is no proper engagement and therefore the chance to properly educate and to get to the majority who could help keep the minority in check is low. Of course the spectre of the lack of the SFA’s ability to get strict liability approved means this will keep going around and around.
9.1.6. Discussions should take place with The Scottish Government as to whether it should be made a specific statutory offence to go onto the pitch without lawful authority at a designated football stadium. I acknowledge that this is a matter which requires full debate. It could be argued that the existing provisions of both Common and Statute Law are sufficient, and that fear of conviction of a statutory offence would not have affected the actions of the large numbers who invaded the pitch on 21st May. On the other hand, the very existence of a statutory prohibition might serve to send home the message that proceeding onto the field of play is likely to result in automatic sanction under the criminal law;
I can’t see the Scottish Government heading in that direction given what happened the last time they started legislating in football so this particular sledgehammer to crack a nut will not fly.
9.1.7. Football officials should continue to take a strict line with players who leave the field of play to engage physically with spectators. Players need to be reminded regularly of the dangers of causing crowd “surges” and the possibility of injuries for which their actions may be responsible, and the need to discourage the notion that physical interaction between players and fans is acceptable;
We already have yellow cards for taking shirts off, We get precious little excitement in our game so don’t encourage more draconian measures that are out of proportion. When did a crowd surge cause a problem at Brechin City v Montrose?
9.1.8. Police Scotland should be invited to consider, at every match where the conclusion is likely to lead to uncontrollable celebrations, the provision of a reserve of Officers who are in a position to deploy across the pitch immediately on the final whistle if there is any indication of an incursion by fans;
Ok police you need to be thinking ahead here rather than being reactive.
9.1.9. In line with UEFA Guidelines, all clubs should be encouraged to appoint a Supporter Liaison Officer (“SLO”). The function of a SLO would be to encourage responsible behaviour amongst supporters, in particular by creating and disseminating clear policies on supporter behaviour as well as developing relationships between supporter groups and football authorities.
The vast majority of clubs treat the SLO ( where they have one) as a tick box exercise( Hibs for example give the role to their PR company to administer for them ) The SFA have started to try move it forward but get short shrift from clubs (not all of them I accept) who see it as an inconvenience. The SFA have “invested” in getting Supporters Direct an English fans organisation lead by a fan who does not go to Scottish games to try and move it forward.
The SFSA recent retuned from a Football Supporters Europe conference in Europe where we spoke to dozens of SLO’s and national fans groups who have spent years in creating and disseminating clear policies on supporter behaviour. It is time for the SFA to move away from having a passive in house fan operation in its pay and instead engaging with Scotland’s independent fans organisation the SFSA. I am sure the phones will be ringing shortly!
Steve McGregor 5/8/16
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