Hearts cup-tie in Edinburgh
Celtic hit out at Murrayfield semi-final decision
Murrayfield will host the Scottish League Cup semi-final between Hearts and Celtic (pic: SNS Group)
Football bosses succumbed to pressure and split the venues for the League Cup semi-finals, but left Celtic fuming by refusing to hold a ballot on which tie would be switched to Murrayfileld.
Celtic will play Hearts at the home of Scottish Rugby on Sunday, 28 October with a 1.30pm kick-off.
The other tie between Rangers and Aberdeen will be played on the same afternoon at Hampden Park, with a 4.30pm start.
The original decision to stage both semis at the National Stadium on the Sunday caused uproar, with both Aberdeen and Hearts expressing their anger at the travel logistics faced by their supporters and the Scottish Police Federation describing it as ‘idiotic’.
The Dons had been due to take on Rangers at noon, with the other match following at 7.45pm.
Hampden Park Ltd waived its contractual right to host both semi-finals at the stadium, prompting the switch.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said he was ‘disappointed with the process’ after learning of the decision, the Parkhead club having written to the SPFL asking that a draw be made to decide which Glasgow team played in Edinburgh.
A spokesman for the SPFL said: “The Hearts vs Celtic match will kick-off at BT Murrayfield at 1.30pm, with the Aberdeen vs Rangers game starting at Hampden at 4.30pm.
“In reaching our decision, we have consulted with Hampden Park, the Scottish FA, Scottish Rugby, Police Scotland, Transport Scotland via the Scottish Government and with the four clubs involved.
“A wide variety of issues have been considered, including the ability of local transport networks to safely and efficiently handle the flow of fans from all four teams to and from the stadia.
“As everyone now understands, this has been an extremely challenging and complex process, due in large part to a lack of alternative fixture slots.
“However, we warmly welcomed the Scottish FA’s intervention on Monday. This has given us the chance to quickly make alternative arrangements and we are grateful to the various stakeholders involved for their swift responses over the past 48 hours. We are now finalising details, subject to contract.
“As ever, it simply is not possible to satisfy the preferences of all parties involved and it is the responsibility of the SPFL Board to weigh the various factors and arguments before reaching a final decision.”
Celtic responded with their own statement, saying: “The SPFL board’s decision not to hold a ballot to decide the venues of the forthcoming semi-final matches is both irrational and discriminatory.
“Celtic recognised there was a genuinely difficult problem to resolve. All we asked for was equity of treatment – in other words, a simple ballot of which game went to which venue, so that all clubs would have a 50-50 chance of playing at Hampden.
“We understand that those bodies consulted, including the police and broadcasters, had no preference whatsoever on which match should take place at each venue and, therefore, there was only one appropriate method of reaching a fair outcome.
“The SPFL Board have been unable to produce logic or reason for turning down our modest request. Instead, they have arbitrarily decided that a chosen game should stay at Hampden and the other should go to Murrayfield.
“The interests of our club and supporters have been subordinated to a diktat from the SPFL board which is as unfair as it was unnecessary.”
Despite their protestations, Celtic are no strangers to rugby’s HQ, in the Capital. The Hoops used the stadium as their home ground for Champions League qualifiers in 2014, while Hearts played a number of their home fixtures there last season due to the development of the Tynecastle main stand running behind schedule.
Ticket details for both matches will be announced in the coming days, according to the SPFL.