Hearts’ European ship sailed, the goalposts were moved and there was a Spanish inquisition on an extraordinary night in Majorca. The European Cup Winners’ Cup first round second leg between Hearts and Real Mallorca in October 1998 will live long in the memory.
This model ship signifies the tie as it was a gift from the Spaniards, who almost sank their own European campaign with a set of goalposts which were not regulation size. Hearts’ appeal to UEFA was thrown out on a technicality - specifically that it wasn’t submitted before kick-off – leaving the Edinburgh club outraged.
Facing a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at Tynecastle, Hearts managed a creditable 1-1 draw at the Estadio Lluis Sitjar in Palma. However, they only played under protest due to the irregular goalframe at one end of the ground.
Hearts officials registered complaints about the state of the pitch and the goalposts to the UEFA delegate Kurt Jacobsen of Denmark and German referee Herman Albrecht.
Chief executive Chris Robinson declared there was a difference of ten centimetres between one post and the other at both ends of the field because of the uneven surface.
“There was no control and he [Jacobsen] was being lobbied at the end by the Spanish officials,” said Robinson. “He was in a different state at the end of the game to what he was at the start and that is not what you expect of a UEFA official.
“It was not a high-risk match but a game where there could have been a problem because of the sunshine and our supporters. The goalposts are the most important thing on the pitch and they were not a fraction out but a huge amount out.
“The important thing is that the UEFA delegate has to do his job and he didn’t. He has to ensure conditions are fair.
“We only agreed to play because of our supporters and the security issue. The goalposts have quite literally been moved.
“It was a ten centimetre difference from the base of one post to the other. The outcome could have prejudiced our keeper playing in goals higher than usual.”
UEFA dismissed Hearts’ appeal and even fined the Tynecastle club £2000 for complaining. Because they didn’t submit an appeal in writing before kick-off, strict UEFA rules decreed that they had forfeited the right to appeal.
That didn’t change the fact Mallorca’s goals were illegal, but the Spaniards progressed to the second round with a huge sigh of relief.
• See more great items from Hearts’ history at the club’s museum. For opening times, go to www.heartsfc.co.uk/pages/museum