Football: SFA keeps lid on cup final rivalry

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WILLIE McDOUGALL, the Scottish Football Association's security adviser, is confident there will be no repeat of the scenes that marred the last Celtic-Rangers match when the teams meet in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park a week on Saturday.

McDougall will be in charge of policing and stewarding at the match, the first at the new National Stadium, mindful of what occurred at Parkhead on 2 May.

"With the co-operation of the police, the stewarding company, the clubs and the stadium authorities, I am sure the game will be a fitting climax to the season," he said. "I am confident because our pre-planning has been meticulous. I am not complacent, however.

"There has been a lot of goodwill from both clubs in the build-up to the final. There has also been a lot of goodwill from the supporters.

"Everyone is mindful that the world is watching and we have to put on a game that everyone will remember for all the right reasons."

There were 113 arrests after the Old Firm game earlier in the month when referee Hugh Dallas was hit by a coin, four fans encroached on to the pitch and three players were sent off.

Images of the match and the aftermath flashed around the world.

"Let's not forget that both Celtic and Rangers supporters have a tremendous record in Europe over the past 10 years," McDougall said. "So do Scotland fans in general. I was speaking in Budapest recently and they were still talking about the hospitality shown to Hungary way back in 1954 when they played in Glasgow.

"There were a number of factors that contributed to the problems at Parkhead and those were documented after the SFA's committee of inquiry.

"You had a 6.05pm kick-off, it was a Bank Holiday and the scheduling of the fixtures meant that one of the teams was going for the title.

"To put it mildly it was not a very good situation and perhaps the scheduling of games between the clubs is something that needs to be addressed."

McDougall admits that the sectarianism is still a problem but one he believes is improving.

"A Celtic-Rangers Tennents Scottish Cup final has a high threat assessment because of the history of the greens and the blues.

"Both clubs have taken initiatives over the years to try and eradicate sectarianism. Rangers have excluded fans who are a party to it while Celtic's initiative `Bhoys Against Bigotry' is well known.

"The real problem, however, is that sectarianism is still with us, even though over the years we have tried to put the lid on it.

"The number of stewards will be above what is required for a stadium with a 52,000 capacity. But that is only because they will be unfamiliar with Hampden. It's not as a result of what happened at Parkhead.

"There will be plenty of pre-match entertainment for the supporters to enjoy. We want to make it a carnival of football."