You Couldn't Make It Up!

by Jack Little

Having been drawn at home against non-league West Calder Swifts in the Scottish Cup, but having no ground of their own, Thistle proposed to play the match at their temporary "home" Ibrox. West Calder were having none of this and quoted Rule 5 which clearly stated that a team without a private ground must concede home advantage and insisted the match had to be played at West Calder. The SFA so ordered. Thistle scraped a 0-0 draw on 23/1/1909. Without a home, they lodged an appeal with the SFA that the replay should not be at the same venue (as was again ordered) because it was not fit for purpose. They attended a meeting with the SFA on 26/1 and said that when they arrived at the ground on the Saturday they found the gates open, the "pay box" shut and hundreds of boys on the playing surface. In addition, part of the boundary barricade was either missing or had fallen down. The side of the pitch without a barrier opened out on to a railway line. The teams had to strip in a hotel 200 yards away and although there was a "stripping box" in the park, West Calder had used it at half-time, leaving the Thistle players out on the pitch. In addition, they estimated that half the crowd had not paid to get in. (The official "gate" to be shared by the clubs was £20.) A West Calder official explained that a gale had blown down part of the barrier 2 days earlier and that it would be repaired. Asked if there was a plentiful supply of water at the ground he replied "It was not water that Partick Thistle wanted, it was whisky" and that there was plenty of water in the bathroom (the "Scotsman"). Once the laughter died down a vote was taken and the proposal that the replay be arranged for Shawfield or Tynecastle was carried by 13 votes to 10. The matter was closed - or so Thistle thought. On 28/1 officials of West Calder Swifts met with their lawyer who subsequently took legal advice from counsel in Edinburgh about taking out an interim interdict against the SFA. Nearly 500 people attended a meeting in the Polytechnic Hall in West Calder the same evening and unanimously agreed that the club would not play at Shawfield or Tynecastle. They also agreed to claim the tie on the basis that Thistle were not a properly constituted club in that they had no registered ground/pavilion and that their appeal was incompetent because it had not been lodged before or during the match. It was also claimed that Hearts, Hibs, Leith Athletic and "a number of country clubs" had already signed their appeal to the SFA. Cheques had also been received to fund the legal process. On 30/1 Thistle and officials duly arrived at Shawfield for the replay but West Calder did not. Thistle therefore claimed the tie. The "Emergency Committee" of the SFA met in private on 1/2 in the Grosvenor Restaurant, Gordon Street, Glasgow and heard the case from both clubs' officials. After 55 minutes' discussion it was decided to award the tie to Thistle on the basis of Competition Rule 8 ie, clubs failing to fulfil a fixture without sufficient reason are deemed to have lost the tie. West Calder refused to drop their appeal and submitted a petition to the SFA - after Thistle had lost to Queen's Park in the next round. The petition was signed by Third Lanark, Hearts, Hibs, Falkirk, 9 second division clubs and 49 other clubs - roughly two-thirds of SFA affiliated clubs. (Nice to know who your friends are!) Their appeal was heard on 9 February and they refuted every allegation made by Thistle as to their ground's unsuitability. They claimed Thistle had opted to change in the hotel 50 yards from the ground without even seeing the pavilion (which had adequate accommodation, a toilet and 130 gallons of water). A police statement supported their claim that the pitch had been cleared of boys well before the match and that their broken boundary fence had been under police supervision for the whole match and that no-one had got into the ground without paying. After a brief discussion it was decided that they had no right of appeal. The "Dundee Evening Telegraph" reported that at the SFA's monthly meeting on 9/3 Thistle's claim for expenses of at least £47 against West Calder was rejected.

Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 07-Sep-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 02-Jun-2020.

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