Leader comment: Old Firm clash date must be altered

Concerns have been raised over plans to stage a Rangers v Celtic match on 31 December.
Concerns have been raised over plans to stage a Rangers v Celtic match on 31 December.
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When an Old Firm match scheduled to be played on 31 December appeared in the fixture list at the start of the season, most observers expected that it would be swiftly moved to another date.

But the date remains fixed, and the decision by the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) to schedule Rangers to play Celtic at Ibrox on Hogmanay now seems misguided.

Police Scotland say the decision has been taken alongside broadcasters and the SPFL and planning is underway already for the match.

Critics are right to say that the choice is 
baffling, considering how much pressure the force is under, on what can be one of the busiest policing days of the year.

The influx of partygoers for New Year 
celebrations across Scotland always heap pressure on the police, with the expected increase of drink-fuelled incidents that occurs annually.

It is hard to see the justification for allowing this match to take place on the day, given the heightened tensions after the last clash.

While last Saturday’s match at Celtic Park only saw one arrest, there continues to be controversy over banners and effigies displayed by Celtic fans and vandalism to the stadium by Rangers supporters.

Research has shown a spike in violence and disorder around Old Firm games, while rising levels of domestic abuse have also prompted police to take preventative action before games.

The SPFL should change the date immediately as any benefits from the match cannot outweigh the potential trouble such a match could bring.