The Old Firm Cup Final That Nobody Won…
‘Cheated’ Fans Riot at Hampden!

Celtic 1 – 1 Rangers (Scottish Cup Final, April 17th 1909)

by Scott Murray.

Willie Maley’s Celtic were the dominant team in Scotland. They were looking to complete their third double on the spin: later that month they would win their fifth title in a row, and here they faced Rangers in the Scottish Cup final.

The first match ended in a 2-2 draw, so the teams had to return to Hampden Park for a replay. That game was also a close encounter, played in front of a crowd of 61,000, and ended 1-1. A third replay would have to be arranged, with the Scottish FA rules clearly stating that extra time would only occur after a “series of three draws”.

1909ScotCupFinalHowever, neither players nor crowd seemed aware of that. For a while it seemed like extra time would be played after all. Celtic hung around on the pitch waiting for the restart. A couple of Rangers players milled around with them. But when a linesman wandered over to a corner flag, and yanked it from its moorings, it was clear that proceedings were over for the day, and a third match was indeed required.

That match would never be played.

Nobody in the crowd seemed much interested in the intricacies of the SFA rulebook. As far as they were concerned, both teams and the SFA were grifting them for more attendance money; this series of draws was nothing more than a whopping great con. “Of late, draws between Celtic and Rangers have occurred with monotonous regularity and the ill-informed man in the street has been heard to hit off the situation by the explanation that these indecisive matches have been ‘arranged for a gate’,” was the Manchester Guardian take on the crowd’s thought processes.

The game might have been off, but the heat was on. Quite literally, too. Amid chants of “play the tie”, thousands invaded the pitch, uprooting goalposts and yanking down nets. Stones, planks and chunks of loose terracing were wheeched through the air, while dods of the Hampden turf was ripped from the ground. Overwhelmed and overrun, the police retreated. Fans took the opportunity to set light to pay boxes, reportedly fuelling the flames with their whisky, an illustration of just how jolly baity they were. “We cannot get our money returned, but we will get our money’s worth!” screamed the crowd, according to a painstakingly edited Guardian report.

When the fire brigade arrived, they were met with what the Daily Record referred to as “interference of the crowd, who pelted them with stones and missiles”. It took the best part of three hours to clear the 9,000-strong protest group; 130 people ended up in hospital.

Celtic and Rangers asked the SFA to cancel the third replay, and so the 1909 Scottish Cup was never awarded. Celtic would not get their third double in a row.

On the same evening, Charlie Chaplin was starring at the Glasgow Hippodrome as part of the Fred Karno Comic Company. But somehow that doesn’t seem quite as exciting a performance.

 

This piece originally appeared on TheGuardian.com in 2012.

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