ScotRail criticises SPFL over handling of semi-finals decision

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ScotRail has criticised football chiefs for a lack of consultation over the transport implications of the plan for both Scottish League Cup semi-finals to be played at Hampden on the same day.

The train operator voiced its disappointment over what it claimed was an absence of contact in advance of the fixtures announcement.

It said the decision – which will see up to 100,000 supporters travelling to and from the Glasgow stadium – presents significant “logistical challenges” for the company.

Some politicians have also hit out at the move, including SNP MSP James Dornan, who has written to police and the SPFL about the “ludicrous” plan.

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) announced on Thursday that Rangers would face Aberdeen at noon on Sunday October 28 and Celtic will play Hearts at 7.45pm in the Betfred Cup semi-finals.

The proposal is the SPFL’s solution to a problem caused by both Glasgow clubs’ involvement in the Europa League on the Thursday night, which effectively ruled out the normal practice of spreading the games out over the weekend.

The SPFL stated that it was “contractually obliged to bring both semi-finals to Hampden”.

ScotRail said a number of customers have been in touch with it about the first match between Aberdeen and Rangers.

A spokesman said on Friday: “The SPFL is well aware from previous events of the logistical challenges an early kick-off presents, particularly for Sunday morning services from Aberdeen.

“The ScotRail events team was not consulted by the SPFL in advance of its announcement, which is disappointing. The SPFL has only now been in touch after the announcement.

“We will assess all options to see what, if anything, is possible in relation to additional services. But the logistical challenges this presents should not be underestimated.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat north east MSP Mike Rumbles said the scheduling looks like “a very poor piece of planning”.

Calling for a rethink, he said: “Aberdeen fans are getting a thoroughly raw deal, with their game kicking off before a train can even get them to Glasgow. It shows complete disregard for those living outside the central belt.

“The scheduling will pose serious challenges to other fans too. There are serious questions about whether the trains will be able to cope with those travelling back to Edinburgh after the evening match, particularly given they are already likely to be packed following a sold-out event at the Hydro.”

In his letter to SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, Mr Dornan outlined a range of concerns surrounding the fixtures, including over the potential for anti-social disorder and the effect on businesses and nearby residents.

The MSP, whose constituency includes Hampden, tweeted: “Every constituent that’s contacted me has been furious at the thoughtless way this has come about.”

It comes after Aberdeen and Hearts raised major objections to the scheduling plan.

The Dons were “dismayed” to be told that their game will kick off at noon, while Hearts owner Ann Budge claimed their 7.45pm start against Celtic risked putting off supporters.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has described the treatment of their fans as “really unfair” and Hearts manager Craig Levein has branded the SPFL’s decision “absolute madness”.

The SPFL has set out the thinking behind the scheduling decision in a feature on its website.

It stated: “We looked at every possible alternative. Doing so would have created additional fixture challenges.

“Switching the Celtic vs Hearts tie until November 3 or 4 would have meant restoring the Celtic vs Motherwell Ladbrokes Premiership match to its original date of October 28.

“That would have created a situation where Celtic and Rangers would both be playing in separate stadia in Glasgow on the same day. Police Scotland would not have supported that.

“We arrived at this decision only after lengthy and exhaustive discussions with all our stakeholders, including Police Scotland.

“They have reassured us they are content with the decision to play both ties at Hampden on the same day and have the resources to manage the situation.”

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