Aberdeen have reacted with “dismay” over their early Betfred Cup semi-final kick-off as Hampden prepares to stage both ties on the same day.
The Scottish Professional Football League announced that Rangers would face Aberdeen at noon on Sunday, October 28 and Celtic will play Hearts at 7.45pm.
The plan is the SPFL’s solution to a problem caused by both Glasgow clubs’ involvement in the Europa League on the Thursday night, which effectively ruled out the normal practice of spreading the games out over the weekend.
A full Ladbrokes Premiership fixture card in the subsequent midweek further reduced the options.
BT Murrayfield was tipped to stage one of the matches but the league has made the controversial choice to welcome four sets of fans to the national stadium on the same day following talks with the clubs and police.
The SPFL stated that it was “contractually obliged to bring both semi-finals to Hampden”.
However, the Dons claim other options merited further discussion after being told to kick off 14 minutes before the first train from the Granite City to Glasgow arrives.
A club statement read: “As a club we have repeatedly asked that the authorities stop giving us kick-off times which, for our large travelling support, are completely unacceptable, but yet again, what should be a showpiece occasion, is scheduled to start at a time that does not take supporters into account.
“While we appreciate Police Scotland was insistent that our game was played first for operational reasons, we believe, and stated along with others, that having both games in the same stadium on the same day, is inappropriate.
“There are other options that should have been investigated further, including staging the two games on consecutive weekends or using two different venues which would have allowed kick-off times more suitable for what are hugely significant occasions in the Scottish football calendar.
“Contesting the two matches on consecutive weekends would be an alternative surely worth investigating, particularly as Celtic are due to face Heart of Midlothian in the Ladbrokes Premiership the following weekend, while also fulfilling the contractual obligations.
“We appreciate the authorities have a difficult job to schedule games in what is an extremely congested calendar but to yet again ask our supporters to be in Glasgow for a 12 noon start on a Sunday is, quite frankly, appalling.”
SPFL secretary Iain Blair stressed that he and his colleagues had to find a solution which gave Celtic and Rangers the “necessary two-day gap between competitive matches”.
Blair added: “We’ve been working hard with Police Scotland and Hampden Park on contingency planning for exactly this scenario and, together, we examined every possible permutation.
“The crowded fixture calendar means that this is the best and most practical solution as any alternative had the knock-on effect of causing major fixture congestion, not only for Celtic and Rangers, but for several other SPFL clubs.
“We met with representatives of all four clubs earlier and explained that this was the only feasible outcome.
“The fact that both Celtic and Rangers are in Europe, and will hopefully be playing in the Europa League after the New Year, is obviously good news for Scottish football, but it does mean that our capacity for rescheduling games is significantly curtailed.
“We can confirm that Police Scotland have advised that the Aberdeen vs Rangers game should be played first.”