Festival Cup doomed by pre-season squeeze

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THE Festival Cup, launched in the hope it would become Edinburgh's own international football tournament, appears to have been consigned to the history books.

In its first two years the trophy was contested between Hibs and Hearts but the intention at the inception of the competition was for it to be broadened out to include the Capital's nine twin cities.

And that could have seen the likes of Bayern Munich, Fiorentina, Dynamo Kiev and Nice invited to Scotland for a football extravaganza to herald the beginning of the Edinburgh International Festival.

However, last year the event, sponsored by the Bank of Scotland, was put in abeyance due to Hearts' long-running search for a new head coach.

The Evening News understands that so far there has been no contact between the clubs to fix a date for this year's clash, which would have been due to be played at Easter Road.

And, with Tony Mowbray's side committed to the InterToto Cup, which would see Hibs play each Saturday throughout July if they make the hoped-for progress, there would appear to be little scope for a suitable date to be agreed.

The new SPL season kicks off on July 29, two weeks before the Festival begins and both clubs would understandably be reluctant to take on an additional fixture at such a time.

Finding a suitable date was a problem in each of the two years the cup match was staged. In the first year it was played at Easter Road only for the clubs to discover they'd be playing the first Edinburgh derby of the season at the same venue just two weeks later.

The following year the match wasn't actually played until the day before the Festival ended with Hearts retaining the trophy.

And it has been revealed that another pre-season trophy has bitten the dust, the Whyte and Mackay Cup which was introduced by the whisky giants to be competed for between Hibs and Leeds United both of whom they sponsored.

Leeds won the inaugural match played at Easter Road two years ago but last summer's return game at Elland Road never materialised due to the takeover by Ken Bates. Now Whyte and Mackay's sponsorship deal with Leeds has come to an end and, although they'll continue to back Hibs for the next three years, the Easter Road outfit are the only major club who wear their name on their shirts.