SPFL fixtures talking points: That Rangers fixture, Boxing Day blank, impact of TV selections

The fixture computer has determined how season 2022-23 will shape up in Scotland and typically, there is no shortage of takeaways from the structure of the calendar for next season.

Kicking off on July 30 – though Celtic’s title defence begins off a day later – the new season will be impacted by the World Cup in Qatar towards the end of the year with a five-week hiatus planned to accommodate the event which Scotland missed out on joining earlier this month.

There are new names in the mix after the promotion of Bonnyrigg Rose from the Lowland league while Cove Rangers, Queen’s Park and Kelty Hearts are each enjoying their highest league status in the present Scottish league ladder.

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In the top-flight though there is much focus on the opening 33 games – with matches planned through to the end of April before the customary split between top six and bottom six in the SPFL Premiership.

It’s the tenth season since the league became rebranded as the SPFL and like the previous nine there are no shortage of talking points to come from the GotSoccer computer which has structured the season.

Early derby in Edinburgh

Always a red-letter day in the football calendar – there’s one derby day a lot earlier than the others and it falls in Edinburgh.

Hearts make the trip across the city to Easter Road on the weekend of August 6-7 – just the second weekend of the season.

SPFL fixtures are out and have sent Rangers to Ross County on December 24 and scheduled an early Edinburgh derby (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

That could be an early opportunity for Lee Johnson to set down a marker to his Hibs managerial career – or Robbie Neilson to exert further dominance on the fixture he hasn’t lost in on his second spell in charge at Tynecastle.

Rangers and Celtic’s first meeting is also critically listed on September 3 – that means last season’s top two meet AFTER the transfer window has closed on September 1 and their squads have been settled, unlike last term where Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie played their final game against their Old Firm rivals before heading off to Premier League pastures new.

With squads settled, and a month gone already, that could really set the tone of the title race when the Old Firm rivals meet at Parkhead.

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The other all-Glasgow Premiership games are scheduled to fall on January 2 at Ibrox and April 8 at Celtic Park.

Rangers’ Christmas Eve trip

Christmas Eve scheduling is slightly unusual these days – and will certainly be in focus this year with Rangers facing a long trip up the A9 to Dingwall on December 24.

Fans will face a race with Santa to be home from the match in the early hours and one of the country’s biggest travelling supports making the journey north the night before Christmas has already brought horror and criticism in equal measure from Rangers supporters on social media.

The team will be expected to deliver a better present on the night too – their last visit to the Global Energy Arena ended in a 3-3 draw after a late capitulation.

That might be one for most to catch on TV – if Sky select it.

Boxing Day blank

December 24 is a rarity, but traditionalists always love the Christmas fixtures, even if Jurgen Klopp doesn’t. The Liverpool manager has criticised the British calendar for the congestion of games around the festive period but, for supporters returning home at the turn of the year, attending these games with family and friends are often highlights of the season and clubs ten to enjoy higher than average attendances.

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Therefore there will be a few of the old-school sad to see an empty slot on December 26 this year. of course there will be the Christmas eve fixtures which are a little unusual and the traditional new Year kick-off to look forward to without the winter break but Boxing Day for some households just might not feel the same without a new Christmas scarf or hat’s first airing on the terrace.

Tough runs

The way the fixtures fall can often dictate how a season progresses for clubs and impact momentum but as the old cliche goes, there are no easy games.

Among Dundee United’s fixtures though is a congested run of games in January facing both sides of Edinburgh and both Old Firm games inside less than a month, with a midweek cross-country trip to Kilmarnock thrown in.

Hibs also have a tricky spell mid-December to the middle of January where they’ll meet five of last season’s top six – including one match at Ibrox on December 17 against Rangers – the day BEFORE the World Cup final.

Introduction of VAR

Of course this season will be split by the World Cup break, but it will also be a season of two halves – one with VAR installed at top flight grounds, and the first half without.

We now know the shake-up and which clubs will be heading where this year and next – so how will the installation and implementation work when there is an imbalance of fixtures and visits for certain teams to certain grounds.

All that has still to be decided – as is the actual match date the new system will begin.

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Television could change dates

All games are subject to re-arrangement pending European progression, draws and TV rights. Sky has still to determine which 48 games the broadcaster will show.

The Championship will also have 20 games shown on BBC Scotland and there are many more talking points outside the tip flight – no less than Edinburgh City’s new branding and name ‘FC Edinburgh’, a non-Old Firm Glasgow derby in the second tier and the introduction of SPFL new boys Bonnyrigg Rose.

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