One Betfred Cup semi-final could be moved from Hampden after organisers reported a “game-changing” shift from stadium bosses.
The Scottish Professional Football League confirmed it was in discussions over moving one of the matches originally scheduled for Hampden on October 28 to an alternative venue. The Hearts-Celtic encounter could now be switched to BT Murrayfield.
The announcement came shortly after Police Scotland called for fresh talks over the SPFL’s controversial plan to stage Aberdeen-Rangers at 1200 and the other tie at 7.45pm on the same Sunday, which was their solution to a problem posed by both Glasgow club’s Europa League commitments.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “After the draw, we spoke to Hampden Park Limited to ask whether they would release us from a contractual obligation to host all semi-finals involving the Old Firm at Hampden. They declined our request and we were unwilling to breach this contract and risk legal action.
“However, I’m pleased to report that we have been contacted this morning by SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell who said that Hampden Park Limited has now reconsidered that position and have agreed to waive that legal obligation.
“This is clearly extremely welcome news. We immediately contacted Police Scotland and informed them of this development and this has enabled us to open talks to explore whether the match could be staged at an alternative venue in the timescales available.”
Doncaster added: “Whilst we received firm assurances from both Hampden Park Limited and Police Scotland that they were able to host both games on the same day, today’s very welcome call is a potential game-changer.
“Everyone recognises that it would be better if we can hold these matches in separate stadia and the fact that we’re now able to explore that option is great news.
“We will now discuss with a number of parties, including the SFA, Police Scotland and the clubs involved before reaching a definitive position, which we will announce as soon as possible to enable fans to make the necessary travel arrangements.”
Hampden Park Ltd is the company set up by the SFA to run the stadium, which is still owned by Queen’s Park ahead of a planned sale to the governing body.
The SPFL’s original plan was heavily criticised for its lack of thought for fans by Aberdeen and Hearts, whose owner Ann Budge stated that Celtic and Rangers were also opposed to the idea.
Police Scotland had initially approved the plan but Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins called for further talks with the SPFL on Tuesday after police federation officials came out strongly against the proposal.
He said: “As a responsible organisation and taking into account these public concerns, I think it sensible to discuss the issues raised with the SPFL and other stakeholders and I have asked the SPFL to look again at the transport plan so we can make a full public safety assessment.”
Scotland’s Sport Minister, Joe Fitzpatrick, also recognised the anger of fans.
“The Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and ScotRail were not consulted ahead of the SPFL announcement,” he said.