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SPFL playing with fire over fixture nightmare

The SPFL are facing a fixture nightmare as they prepare to publish the 24/25 Premiership fixtures on Thursday morning.

Normally it should be a fairly straightforward process with Dundee United replacing Livingston and last season’s fixtures being reversed but with uncertainty over when Ibrox will be in use things are up in the air.

Celtic will host the first Glasgow Derby somewhere between Matchday 2 and 11, the hoops will be at Ibrox around the turn of the year with another Celtic Park fixture in March or April. The post-split fixture will be at Ibrox.

In the springtime the SPFL managed to mediate a peace deal between the two Glasgow clubs that will see around 2,500 away fans at each ground, the first time that there has been more than 800 away fans at the fixture since the 2017/18 season.

Last Thursday’s vague announcement that Ibrox won’t be ready for the start of the new season has put the fixture announcements in the spotlight with the added complication that Hampden Park can’t be used until September.

No timeline accompanied the Ibrox announcement, the media messengers all went with August only with nothing to back up that claim, September looks unlikely with October about as optimistic as it gets which puts the SPFL in a spot of bother.

John Bennett will need to find a stadium to host one, possibly two Champions League qualifiers in August with the first one falling as early as August 6. It is being assumed that the stadium hire will continue into SPFL fixtures.

With the Season Ticket money banked Bennett has to work out when Ibrox will be available again, in an ideal world with four full stands or as a Plan B with three stands filled with 46,000 Season Ticket holders squeezed into around 42,000 seats. Minus the away allocation and segregation, if they want to cut out away tickets they will find that decision returned with interest.

Hiring out Murrayfield into September and October will be a costly business, both in terms or renting the venue at the same time as missing out on the matchday cash from Ibrox.

Hospitality clients are paying for the Ibrox experience, followed by taxi or underground into Glasgow city centre. Murrayfield doesn’t carry the same appeal although there could be business from the Edinburgh community.

Playing at Murrayfield causes fixture conflicts with Hearts and Hibs, the two Edinburgh sides will demand their Saturday fixtures forcing Phil Clement’s side to get used to Sunday matches which they’d get anyway if they drop into the Europa League.

It has been suggested by some that requests could be made to switch fixtures around, any club agreeing to that will have some answering to do to their Season Ticket holders over helping out an opponent that provides them with a very hostile environment at Ibrox.

Celtic should start off with a home fixture as well as a Glasgow Derby plus home matches against Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen in the first set of matches.

Supporters are well used to the SFA and SPFL going out of their way to placate one set of angry fans and directors, if that extends into manipulating fixtures then new sponsors William Hill might find themselves involved in an early season revolt.

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