SPFL in talks to potentially move one of the Betfred Cup semi-finals
Sky Sports News understands Celtic v Hearts match is being looked at by SPFL to move
By Matthew Treadwell
Last Updated: 02/10/18 6:27pm
The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has confirmed it is in talks over potentially moving one of the Betfred Cup semi-finals to a different venue.
It was announced last week that Rangers would face Aberdeen at noon on Sunday October 28 and Celtic will play Hearts later that day at 7.45pm.
The games were due to be played on the same day because of both Glasgow clubs' involvement in the Europa League on the Thursday night, and the SPFL stating that it was "contractually obliged to bring both semi-finals to Hampden".
The plan was criticised by Hearts, Aberdeen, politicians and ScotRail, with Police Scotland also saying on Tuesday that they were keen to discuss the issue. However, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster now says that one of the games may be moved after all.
Sky Sports News understands that it is the rescheduling of the Celtic versus Hearts match in particular that is being looked at by the SPFL.
"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," Doncaster said. "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."
Hearts versus Celtic at Murrayfield is what is being suggested at this stage, although no agreement is in place with Scotland's home of rugby yet. The use of Murrayfield would come at a cost - Sky Sports News understands that the two clubs playing the semi-final there are likely to pick up the bill.
The SFA board have stepped in to essentially overrule, and advise that a re-think is considered to protect the reputation of football in Scotland given the outcry since the decision to play both games in the same stadium on the same day was made last week.
Doncaster added: "Whilst we are taking nothing for granted and are unable to make a definitive announcement at this early stage, if agreement can be reached between all parties involved, this would allow us to change from the original kick-off times which Police Scotland specified to ensure the matches could be staged at Hampden on the same day.
"The good news is that fans would have more convenient travel arrangements.
"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."
Earlier on Tuesday, Assistant Chief Constable of Police Scotland Bernard Higgins said he was keen to discuss concerns over the staging of the games with the SPFL.
“As a responsible organisation and taking into account— Police Scotland (@policescotland) October 2, 2018
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."
"We're aware of issues and concerns that have been raised over the last few days about the date and venue of the League Cup semi-finals," read a statement from Higgins on the Police Scotland official Twitter feed.
"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."