Hibernian and Hearts have criticised the SPFL after their ticket allocations for their respective League Cup semi-finals was cut.
The Easter Road club, who face holders Celtic at Hampden on 2 November, have seen their initial 17,000 share of the semi-final briefs slashed by 7,000, while Hearts, who play Rangers at the national stadium the following day, have had their original quota reduced by 5,000.
With Celtic selling out their 36,000 share and Easter Road manager Paul Heckingbottom admitting that the take-up amongst Hibs fans has been slow, the main cause for consternation is the fact that the majority of the seats now available to capital fans are for the higher priced sections, with extremely limited access to concession tickets for children and seniors.
“Whilst the club accepts the need to ensure the best possible attendance at showpiece games, it is our view that it would have been reasonable and practicable for the SPFL to accede to our request to retain a higher number of less expensive tickets,” said Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster in a statement. “The response [from the SPFL] has been disappointing and frustrating.
“It’s my view that segregation would not have been an issue for the area we requested and, as it is, the decision taken means the vast majority of Hibs fans now wishing to go to the game will have to pay the higher price regardless of their age or status.”
Heckingbottom says he has been surprised by the reluctance of fans to snap up the semi-final briefs but says it will do nothing to dampen the players’ and coaches’ enthusiasm for the showcase match.
“I had been asking about it and the guys at the club have pointed out that tends to happen [for League Cup semi-finals],” said the Hibs head coach.
“But you have to look at how often do they get there, past results, people’s feelings on it, the timing of the game and it tends to be the history of this fixture, this semi-final. It seems to be that way.
“We can do our part and change it a bit [by trying to win the next two league games and generating more excitement] but looking back it seems to be a fixture that doesn’t really capture the imagination. I think the final would, if we got past Celtic.
“Everyone has their own circumstances why they can’t get there. Maybe they’re putting their pennies away in the piggy bank in the hope of getting to the final. But I’m over the moon and I’m looking forward to it, so are the players.”
Fully aware that the first major silverware of the season is traditionally ranked lowest of the three main trophies, behind the Scottish Cup and the Premiership, he insists the desire to win it is still high.
“That’s the same everywhere, with the Scottish Cup and the FA Cup compared to the league cups. Whilst they are still major domestic cup competitions there is naturally a pecking order in the way trophies are sought after and valued.”
Hearts share their neighbours’ annoyance at the reduced ticket allocation for their semi-final with Rangers.
“We have been in regular dialogue with the SPFL over the last two weeks to try to prevent any reduction being imposed prematurely,” the club said in a statement.
“While we have had some success in postponing their decision and limiting the reduction in our allocation, we share the frustration expressed by Hibernian.”
They added that while they accept the principle of maximising attendance, “we do not accept that the timing of their intervention, in this case, has been reasonable.
“We have approximately 1,000 tickets remaining for seats in the East Stand, priced at £25 per adult, £10 per concession. We also have approximately 2,500 tickets available at £30 in the South Stand, where no concession pricing is available. We would, therefore, encourage anyone requiring concession tickets to purchase them as soon as possible.”