The Riot at the Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers

ON MONDAY 19 APRIL 1909 the SFA made the decision that the Scottish Cup would be withheld that year following Saturday’s riot at the Scottish Cup final replay at Hampden between Celtic and Rangers. The replay finished 1-1 and both sets of supporters, and indeed many of the players, expected extra time to be played.

While this decision was being taken by the SFA, Celtic were in Edinburgh beating Hearts 2-1 in a Scottish League match, the goals being scored by Jimmy McMenemy.

But back to the match on that Saturday which many football historians regard as the day the intense rivalry between the two Glasgow clubs kicked off.

Here’s how the match is described on The Celtic Wiki…

Mayhem broke out at the Scottish Cup Final replay when hundreds of fans rioted at the end of the match.

It was the second time that Celtic and Rangers had finished all square. Most of the players and fans alike assumed that there would be extra time. However under the rules of the SFA, extra time was only permissible for the second replay.

When the referee blew the final whistle, a number of players remained on the pitch as if in expectation of extra time. Encouraged by this, many of the spectators also stood their ground. A rumour spread around the terraces that the result had been pre-arranged to secure a third lucrative pay day. The players were invited to leave the pitch and when the uprooting of corner flags by a groundsman made clear there would be no further play, the crowd spilled on to the pitch. They appeared to be on their way to the dressing rooms with the intention of persuading the teams to come out again. The police barred their way, and the players quietly left the stadium.

The spectators then turned their wrath on the constabulary, and a full-scale riot was soon in progress. Wooden barricading torn from the terracing was set alight on the track around the playing area. Hundreds of fans spilled onto the pitch and took their anger out by tearing down the goals, cutting up the turf and setting fire to the pay-boxes and stand, using whisky as fuel. Some of the rioters tore up and down the pitch with a roller. The fire brigade was summoned when pay boxes were set ablaze and police reinforcements arrived from all over the city. The rioters slashed the hoses of the firemen and abused and obstructed ambulance men.

Arrests proved almost impossible, with the police constantly having to rescue isolated and endangered colleagues. Knives, stones, bottles and fragments of wood were used as weapons. More than 100 people were hurt during the rioting, many of them police and firemen; it was reported that fifty-four policemen had been injured.

Even when the fans were finally forced from the ground, they continued to attack the police outside, and set about breaking windows in nearby houses and smashing street lamps. The riot went on for two hours or more, and damage was estimated at £800.

When the Scottish Football Association met to consider the matter the following Monday, both clubs made it clear that they did not wish to stage another replay, so the final was never decided and the cup and players medals were withheld

The association gave Queen’s Park £500 towards repairs to the stadium and ordered the two clubs to pay £150 each – a negligible sum in view of the fact that the total takings from the two matches fell not far short of £4000.

The press was scathing in its treatment of the rioters. The Pall Mall Gazette for example, reacted: “The football craze is one of the most active deleterious influences to which the character of the masses is now subjected: and we cannot too soon set about counteracting it with the wholesome discipline of military training.”

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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