January blues for footie fans as derby date moves

AS post-Christmas traditions go, it’s up there with leftover turkey sandwiches and hitting the sales.

But Hibs and Hearts fans hoping for their regular dose of holiday football are set to be left out in the cold this year – after the New Year’s derby fixture was moved for the sake of TV schedules.

Supporters from both clubs have been quick to cry foul after the game was switched from January 2 – a public holiday – to January 3, when many fans will have gone back to work, or travelled home after visiting the Capital for the 
festive season.

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The match was one of the most eagerly anticipated in this year’s fixture list – and a nod back to when the Edinburgh derby was played regularly on either January 1 or 2.

The game, at Tynecastle, will now be held at 7.45pm and be shown live on Sky instead of the planned 3pm kick-off time from the previous day.

Derek Watson, chairman of the Hearts Supporters Trust, said the decision would be unpopular with fans.

He said: “It’s tradition that New Year fixtures are held on the 1st or 2nd and I know a lot of people who have moved away from Edinburgh to places like London and Manchester and are visiting for New Year hope to go to the game. Many of them will have to be back at work on the 3rd and would have been looking forward to it.

“These fixtures have been scheduled to fit television, with not really any thought for the supporters. Obviously we have to accommodate television, but only so far. We have pointed out to Hearts before that the majority of fans are not happy at the changes in times and the club will lose out.”

There are also possible security concerns with playing the derby at night as some fans will have been drinking during the day. In a previous night game in May 2009 a fan ran on to the pitch and attacked then Hibs striker Derek Riordan.

Mike Riley, chairman of the Hibs Supporters Association, said: “I know Hibs fight hard to get as many games as possible as an afternoon kick-off but they have to suit the broadcasters. A lot of people come from all over and will have bought their tickets already, so it’ll be a disappointment.”

He added: “I also find it difficult to believe the police would accept a night-time kick-off, especially in the dark, given that the option was there to have an afternoon fixture.”

A Sky Sports source told the Evening News the money-
spinning game had to be moved to reach as wide a 
possible audience for the broadcaster.

The insider said: “It’s a massive game, the biggest of the New Year fixtures, and so we wanted to ensure it didn’t clash with any other matches on the 2nd.

“There are games all day on the Wednesday and some big English Premier fixtures and having it on the following day will ensure the biggest audience, which the fans will recognise. This isn’t just our decision, both clubs were in agreement and the SFA had the final decision. We’re confident it will be a great match.”

Both Hibs and Hearts refused to comment.