The Scottish Professional Football League have confirmed that the Hearts-Celtic semi-final will kick-off at 1.30pm at Murrayfield on Sunday, October 28, instead of 7.45pm at Hampden Park. The Aberdeen-Rangers tie on the same day stays at Hampden but moves from a 12pm kick-off to 4.30pm.
Hearts supporters have roundly welcomed the changes having been outraged by the original plan to stage a national cup semi-final on a Sunday night. The Edinburgh club joined forces with Aberdeen to push for a rethink, and FoH now expect a memorable Sunday involving up to 30,000 maroon-clad fans at the 67,000-capacity Murrayfield.
“Talk about Super Sunday? You’ve got the Hearts-Celtic match and then Aberdeen-Rangers right after it. That’s a Super Sunday, a real Super Sunday,” Wallace told the Evening News.
“Two great matches, two great stadiums and all the fans can get there and back in one piece. Presumably, everyone who wants to go to these games will be able to now.
“It’s a victory for common sense. The club got on with the negotiations quietly in the background, away from the public glare, and that is pleasing. There was always going to be emotion around this issue and I think Hearts have done a great job just getting on with it and getting a good decision.
“The most pleasing thing is that probably around 30,000 Hearts fans could get to see this game now if they want to. We might only have had 15,000 at Hampden. Now some younger fans can see their first semi-final, which is a massive thing they would previously have missed out on.”
Wallace thanked the Hearts owner Ann Budge for her diligent work in the background in recent days as she refused to give up the fight to have the semi-final moved.
The Evening News joined forces with the Aberdeen Evening Express to campaign for a better deal for fans and less travelling where possible. With Police Scotland also questioning the sense of trying to stage both semis at Hampden on the same day, the pressure forced the SPFL to alter their plans.
“The hardest thing in the world is to hold your hands up and say: ‘We’ve called this wrong.’ So you have to be fair and say well done to the SPFL. They have listened to stakeholders like Police Scotland,” said Wallace.
“Most importantly, the fans are the lifeblood of the game and they let it be known they weren’t happy with the original plan. The SPFL have listened to that and come up with a really sensible solution. I think it’s fantastic news and I can’t wait.
“Ann has done the right thing by the fans. The Evening News did it by showing the unity between Hearts and Aberdeen fans through yourselves and the Evening Express. Ann has worked with Aberdeen and kept fighting, but she’s done it in the right way.
“She went about her business in a civilised way. She kept quiet, kept her counsel and didn’t enter into the emotion of the debate. She’s helped bring the issue to a good answer.
“It was frustrating for the fans because they didn’t know what was happening for the best part of a week but, in the end, it’s a brilliant result. Now you have a fantastic spectacle. When did you last see 67,000 people at a football match in Scotland?”
Budge welcomed the Murrayfield move and implored supporters to make the home of Scottish Rugby a “sea of maroon”. She released a statement which read: “Heart of Midlothian Football Club is delighted to confirm that its Betfred Cup semi-final match against Celtic will now be played at 1.30pm on Sunday, October 28 at BT Murrayfield
“The club is pleased that the concerns of all involved have been listened to and the new kick-off time is great news for all supporters, young and old.
“The SPFL has worked jointly with the clubs to address the supporter issues and to find a solution that will enable two major fixtures in the Scottish football calendar to be showcased in the best possible manner. Hearts would like to thank everyone involved over the last week for their willingness to consider alternatives.
“Now that the fixture has been set in stone we can start the process of allocating tickets to the supporters and making BT Murrayfield a sea of maroon for Craig (Levein) and the team to walk out to, on what will be a truly special occasion for everyone associated with the club.”
Confirming the decision, an SPFL spokesperson said: “In reaching our decision, we have consulted with Hampden Park, the Scottish FA, Scottish Rugby, Police Scotland, Transport Scotland via the Scottish Government and with the four clubs involved.
“A wide variety of issues have been considered, including the ability of local transport networks to safely and efficiently handle the flow of fans from all four teams to and from the stadia.
“As everyone now understands, this has been an extremely challenging and complex process, due in large part to a lack of alternative fixture slots.
“As ever, it simply is not possible to satisfy the preferences of all parties involved and it is the responsibility of the SPFL board to weigh the various factors and arguments before reaching a final decision.
“We will be announcing details of ticket allocations in the next few days and now look forward to focusing on the forthcoming semi-final matches between four of the top teams in the country.”
A spokesman for Scottish Rugby said: “We’re pleased to confirm our ability to host Hearts and Celtic in the Betfred Cup semi-finals on Sunday October 28.
“We’ll be liaising closely with the SPFL, colleagues at Police Scotland and other relevant event partners to ensure the match is a great sporting occasion for the fans of both clubs.
“It’s a very short timescale, but our team at BT Murrayfield delivers memorable events and will be pulling out all the stops to give both teams the perfect stage to push for a place in the final.”