Furious fans have blasted organisers of last night’s SPL game between Hibs and Motherwell after it had to be abandoned.
Hibs were leading 1-0 when the stadium was evacuated after the teams failed to reappear for the second half following reports of a fire in a generator powering the floodlights.
Several fire engines appeared behind the South Stand during the first half. Hibs took the lead in the 16th minute with a goal from Garry O’Connor – with the abandonment meaning manager Pat Fenlon was denied the chance of a debut win.
More than 6500 fans had been inside Fir Park for the second Friday night match in the SPL this season
There was confusion in the South Stand where the Hibs supporters were housed, with claims the loudspeaker system failed. Mike Riley, chairman of the Hibs Supporters’ Association, said: “Nobody seemed to know exactly what had happened.
“The next thing the stewards were asking us to leave and an announcement came over the tannoy to say the match had been abandoned.”
“I think everybody is disappointed – everything seems to be conspiring against us.”
Frances Jablonski, 56, retired, from Leith, said: “It’s an absolute disgrace –Motherwell should get a stadium that’s fit for purpose.
“We’re waiting on the troops getting back. They’re not going to be happy - on a Friday night as well when they could have been spending time with their wives or their children.”
Will Atkinson, 56, an advertising worker from Canonmills, had been at the match.
He said: “There have been enough disasters at football games so it was the right thing to do, although it was frustrating. I’m not a fan of Friday night football, but I was persuaded to go because of the new manager and everything.
“To get all the way to Motherwell for the match for it then to be called off just adds to your frustration – especially as Hibs were playing quite well.”
The police match commander, Chief Inspector Brian Connel, said: “Shortly before half time, we saw smoke on the CCTV system. This was coming from the south-east corner of the South Stand.
“The investigation of that identified that there was smoke and also the smell of burning and I had no option but to call in Fire and Rescue.
“They identified the seat of the fire was in the electrical framework for the lighting column. Initially, it was clear there had been an electrical fire. They managed to isolate part of that frame. However, I could not be given assurance there was not the danger of further fire or the fact they would need to isolate the light, whereby the floodlight would have been off anyway.
“The match officials delayed the start of the second half as long as they could but, not getting the assurance it was going to be safe, we had to abandon the match.”
SPL secretary Iain Blair said: “I’m sure it was disappointing for all the fans inside the stadium, but it was for safety reasons that the game was abandoned and I’m equally sure the safety of spectators was the main concern of the people there.”