Six biggest fan gripes with the 2016/17 SPFL fixture list

Celtic, Rangers, Hogmanay. What could go wrong? Picture: John Devlin
Celtic, Rangers, Hogmanay. What could go wrong? Picture: John Devlin
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Scottish football fans are again voicing their displeasure at the league’s governing body after the fixture list for the 2016/17 season was released.

Though there were a few tasty matches to salivate over, supporters have been left scratching their heads at a few aspects of the schedule.

Here are the six most popular to have done the rounds this morning:

The Old Firm game on Hogmanay

Surely a recipe for disaster? More than any other day on the Scottish calendar, Hogmanay is synonymous with people drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Combine that with the powder keg atmosphere of Old Firm derby day, and you’re almost asking for trouble.

At present, the matches are scheduled for a 3pm kick-off, but with the Old Firm game almost certain to plucked as the game of the day by the broadcasters, it’ll likely be switched to a kick-off closer to noon. That will cut down on any trouble in or around the game, but jubilant and angry fans will continue afterwards for several hours. Police Scotland will have a long night ahead of them.

It’s also a bit of a pain for the average supporters who still have to work on Hogmanay as it’s not an official bank holiday.

Matches on Christmas Eve

The day before Christmas is usually spent either in the company of loved ones, down the local with friends or madly dashing around the shops at the very last second to make sure you have everything you need. If you’re a Celtic fan, for example, an away trip to Hamilton may therefore be pretty low down on your list of priorities. It also means there’s no games on Boxing Day, which is the tradition.

Travelling around the festive period

There are games on December 24th, 28th and 31st and fans from several clubs are bemoaning lengthy travel demands at a time of year when getting from one end of the country to another can be rather difficult. On Christmas Eve, Aberdeen are travelling to Motherwell, Partick Thistle to Ross County and Inverness CT to Rangers. Four days later Motherwell have to make the long trip themselves to the Highlands when they play Inverness, while Ross County go to Celtic.

While it does seem ridiculous, the trouble is there are three teams fairly isolated from the rest of the league, with three quarters in or around the central belt. Seeing as it’s the festive period, matches could be scheduled so teams play closer to home, but traditionally derbies are played at New Year, so those types of fixtures are already taken, meaning there are limited options available. Matches between Aberdeen, Ross County and Inverness can’t cover two rounds of fixtures, especially when two are playing on Hogmanay. Somebody’s got to play them.

Fans will argue that there should be fewer games around Christmas and more in the summer months, but the reason they aren’t is that the league is prohibited from doing so by Uefa if the midweek falls on the same dates as the Champions League.

It could have been handled better, there is still a free midweek in August after all, but it’s not as straight-forward as some make out.

Celtic starting the season away from home

Celtic fans aren’t happy that the champions are beginning the season away from home as it’s customary for the title holders to raise the league flag at their stadium on the opening weekend. However, it does appear that Celtic requested an away fixture on the opening day in order to have a home fixture the following week.

Celtic play Inter in a friendly tournament in Limerick on 13 August and can only ask for a match to be postponed if its a home game.

READ MORE - Celtic to unfurl championship flag at Champions League game

Hearts’ beginning to the season

No team has a more difficult beginning to the campaign than the men from Gorgie. They begin by hosting last season’s champions before travelling to runners-up Aberdeen the following weekend. After coming up from the Championship, Hearts made the most of a kind run of fixtures to start on a five-game winning streak, which was a springboard for the rest of the season. The last thing they’ll want is to have a poor beginning to this campaign.

Of course, the flip side of that is that it’ll do wonders for their confidence if they can remain unbeaten or even pick up one win from those two games, as the fixtures will get a lot less intimidating from that point on.

Motherwell’s Old Firm gripe

Motherwell aren’t happy they’re getting only one home game each against Rangers and Celtic guaranteed. For clubs around the Glasgow area, home matches against the Old Firm can provide a major boost to revenue as a team can make anywhere from £100,000-£250,000 extra over the course of a season from two of these matches compared to two games against everyone else.

The fixtures are produced randomly, but Motherwell feel it would be fairer if all teams get three home games against Rangers and Celtic, rather than some getting two and others getting four.

*Since this was written, Motherwell, Partick Thistle and Hamilton have voiced their displeasure and called for the fixtures to be redrawn.

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