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The Battle of Hampden Park (1980) | @Alexecky

As part of a series of Scottish football history articles written for us by radio presenter Alex Horsburgh, today he relives the shocking scenes of May 1980 at Hampden Park...

Lockdown release and the UK's relationship with alcohol has certainly been in the news recently, but 40 years ago an Old Firm Scottish Cup Final would force Scottish sport to address its connection to lager, whisky and the rest. The rule that followed the Hampden scenes at the start of a decade of excess in Britain acted as a sobering reminder that a nation cannot run on the fuel of amber nectar.

Strathclyde Mounted Police form a cordon on the Hampden halfway line to split the fans

The shocking scenes of May 1980 left the watching TV audience stunned, as tribal football warfare broke out in front of the Scottish nation who were watching a showpiece match in their living rooms, on a day with the weather outside more in keeping with Benidorm than Glasgow.

The 95th Scottish Cup final represented a watershed moment in Scottish football and largely changed Scotland's previous connection with alcohol. Until the afternoon of May 10th 1980, this had been largely synonymous with the Scottish game and sadly, because of that, with Scottish society itself.

The image of the drunken Scotsman marauding around Wembley at the bi-annual international match in London or excessively celebrating a victory for his club team domestically, would change after the considerable straw of a Celtic-Rangers Scottish Cup Final that broke the habit of Scottish football attendance and a drink or three or four or more!

Football was changing in 1980 anyway north of the border as an Alex Ferguson-led Aberdeen, became the first non-Old Firm winners of the Scottish League since Kilmarnock in the mid 1960s. Dundee United had beaten Aberdeen after a replay in the Scottish League Cup Final and this was the first League Cup Final that had not featured one or both of the Old firm since season 1962/63.

Celtic [2nd] had finished above Rangers [5th] in the then 10-team Scottish Premier League at the end of season 1979/80, but the press made the Ibrox side favourites for the last major piece of silverware of the season. Celtic had injuries going into the final with key players Tom McAdam and Roddie MacDonald out of the Hampden showpiece. Two Old firm legends were in charge in the dugouts, with 1967 European Cup Final winning captain Billy McNeill managing Celtic, and John Greig, captain of the Gers European Cup Winners Cup winning team of 1972, bossing the Light Blues.

Aberdeen Press and Journal - 10 May 1980 - Rangers tipped for Scottish Cup success

A single Englishman stopped the line-ups for the 1980 Scottish Cup Final being eleven Scots apiece as the teams lined up for kick off on a bright, sunny day in Glasgow. Peter Latchford, brother of Everton goal machine Bob Latchford, stood in goals for Celtic some six years before Graeme Souness would attract English internationals to Ibrox with his world class presence as manager of Rangers. His presence would open the door to English and foreign players alike becoming a part of Scottish football on a regular basis.

The final of 1980 was an unremarkable affair and a crowd of 70,303 were frustrated by a dogged match that lacked invention and ended 0-0 after 90 minutes. It was maybe appropriate then, that an unremarkable goal in extra time would win the match 1-0 for Celtic, when a Danny McGrain shot that was going wide of Peter McCloy's goal was redirected into the net by George McCluskey.

Celtic clinched the cup for the 26th time but what followed after the full-time whistle would overshadow anything that happened on the pitch that day or maybe any Celtic v Rangers before or since.

Celtic fans charge at the Battle of Hampden Park 

The riot that followed the 1980 Scottish Cup Final was described by BBC News in 2011 as the "most infamous case of disorder" in a Celtic v Rangers fixture.  Rival fans battled on the Hampden Park pitch and mounted police attempted to defuse the trouble, which was largely attributed to the excessive consumption of alcohol.

After winning the match, the Celtic players went to celebrate with their supporters, as was the normal practice. The Scotiish Football Association had given both teams permission to parade the Scottish Cup trophy on the pitch after the match, as they had recently installed a 10 foot high perimeter fence around Hampden. Some of the Celtic supporters climbed over the perimeter fences and joined the players on the pitch. An investigation by the SFA executive committee found that this initial invasion of the pitch was "a spontaneous, if misguided, expression of joy."

Some of the Rangers fans had stayed behind, despite their team's defeat. One of the Celtic fans ran to the end of the stadium inhabited by the Rangers fans, and kicked a ball into the goal at that end. In response to this, some Rangers fans invaded the pitch to charge at the Celtic fans, who in turn confronted their rivals. Bricks, bottles and cans were soon being thrown along with fans using iron bars and wooden staves from terracing frames as weapons. The police had insufficient manpower inside the stadium to quell the disorder. BBC Scotland commentator Archie McPherson described the after match scenes in the following way:

''This is like a scene now out of the film Apocalypse Now...  At the end of the day, let's not kid ourselves. These supporters hate each other.''

Rangers fans return charge

Both clubs were fined £20,000 after the events and more than 200 arrests were made in the Hampden area. Celtic blamed the police for their handling of the riot. The vast majority of the police officers on duty were outside the ground after the match, to prevent any trouble in the streets surrounding Hampden Park. The police and the SFA had assumed that the perimeter fences would prevent fans from invading the pitch, but they were later described as being "completely inadequate". The police blamed Celtic fans for the disorder, a position Rangers concurred with. In response, Celtic cited the underlying hostility between the two sets of fans, caused by the sectarian problem in Glasgow. Celtic chairman Desmond White also cited the fact that Celtic fielded a mixture of Catholics and Protestants in their team, inferring that the problem was not caused by his club.

Secretary of State for Scotland, George Younger, blamed alcohol and the actions of the Celtic players for the riot. An Act of Parliament was passed that banned the sale of alcohol within Scottish sports grounds from August 1980.

The ban was partially lifted in 2007 to allow the sale of alcohol at international rugby matches played at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh but the only time you are likely to see alcohol at a Scottish football match to this day is for hospitality packages for domestic cup finals at Hampden. Even then these drinks must be consumed away from any view of the pitch, so the ban brought in in 1980 still more or less stands intact in its original form today.

Whether life after lockdown will bring a return to social drinking at Scottish football is to be debated, and will be debated vociferously, but the scenes after the 1980 Scottish Cup Final are images burned into a nation's psyche and with 21st century life in the UK sometimes no better than the tribal boot boy attitudes of the 1970s and 1980s [the writer's personal opinion], I for one would ask my home nation to take a long hard look before deciding whether or not we are now socially sophisticated enough to enjoy a beer at the game post pandemic.

At the end of the day the politicians at Holyrood will decide!

An abiding image of the 1980 Scottish Cup Final

This piece was kindly written and given to @TFHBs by Alex Horsburgh - you can follow him on Twitter: @Alexecky

Our book is available to buy here!

©The Football History Boys, 2020
(All pictured borrowed kindly & not owned by TFHB)


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