The Scottish Football Association has defended its decision to name Celtic Park and Ibrox as the venues for the latter stages of the William Hill Scottish Cup by insisting that clubs wanted to know the stadia in advance.
With Hampden closed as an athletics track is laid for the Commonwealth Games, the SFA board decided that Rangers will host both semi-finals on 12 and 13 April, while the final will be played at Parkhead on 17 May.
When Hampden was being rebuilt in the late 1990s, decisions on final venues were taken on an ad-hoc basis in a bid to avoid teams being handed home advantage.
The SFA is now contractually obliged to host semi-finals at Hampden but it could have temporarily reverted to the previous norm of delaying decisions on last-four venues until after the quarter-finals to avoid a situation where Ibrox could be less than half-full for a clash involving two smaller teams.
But the SFA claims clubs want advance knowledge and dismissed suggestions that games could be played at Murrayfield, while insisting any venue would need to be able to accommodate at least 25,000.
In a series of tweets, the SFA said: “It is important for fixture planning schedules to announce the venues as early as possible.
“Ave s/f [average semi-final] attendances are 25k+ so only two football stadia can accommodate those numbers.
“Member clubs (we are a members’ organisation) preferred to know in advance where s/f and finals would be held. Stadium rental, insurance, stewarding etc all require planning well before finals and semi-finals. More cost-effective to arrange in advance.”
Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson expressed surprise at the decision having been made so early, however. “I can understand why Celtic Park has been chosen, it is the biggest stadium in Scotland,” Thompson told The Scotsman. “But if Celtic get to the final it will be a huge advantage to them, and the same stands for Rangers at Ibrox if they get to the semi-final.
“I am just surprised at why the decision has to be made so much in advance. Major games are played at stadiums with just ten days’ notice. There is no reason why this has to happen. I understand why there has to be an alternative venue because Hampden Park is unavailable. But you would hope they could have tried to maintain the concept of neutrality.”