Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has called for a minimum percentage of away supporters to be enshrined in league rules as he prepares to take his team to what will be an even more hostile atmosphere inside Tynecastle.
Celtic will have 576 fans in attendance for Sunday’s game against Hearts with the home club keen to get more of their own supporters inside the ground following rising demand for tickets in recent years.
The allocation is less than half of what Celtic received in their previous visit and a continuation of a trend.
Rodgers was used to seeing the Roseburn Stand half full of Celtic supporters in his first spell in charge, which included his first domestic game as manager and the game where his side clinched his first title. But previously Celtic fans occupied the whole of the stand behind the goal.
The likes of Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian previously took bigger supports to Glasgow too but they have long been restricted to less than two per cent of Celtic Park and Ibrox in allocations measured in hundreds.
The Tynecastle allocation has continued debate over away allocations which has been most starkly felt when Celtic face Rangers in recent seasons.
The tradition of handing about 7,500 tickets to the away team was abandoned by Rangers and fears over the safety of an away following in the hundreds have meant the fixture has been home fans only in recent matches.
The likes of Aberdeen, St Mirren and Kilmarnock have also cut the allocations for Celtic and Rangers fans in recent seasons.
The issue will likely be revisited ahead of Celtic’s New Year derby with Rangers likely to be rebuffed in their request for tickets after the Hoops won at Ibrox earlier this season with no fans present.
Scottish Professional Football League rules are currently vague, stating that a home club must provide tickets for a “reasonable number of visiting supporters…. as may be agreed in advance with the visiting club”. The SPFL board will determine the number if no agreement is reached but that situation has never occurred.
Rodgers accepted Hearts’ right to cut the allocation but he hopes the rules can be made clearer for everyone’s benefit, echoing similar calls from his Hearts counterpart Steven Naismith.
“Every club has got every right at this moment in time, to issue what they want to give to away supporters,” the Celtic manager said.
“Until there is something standardised, Hearts are more than willing to do that.
“Of course as a Celtic manager I love to see more supporters in there of course because they come from all over the place to follow their team.
“But hopefully we can standardise a certain percentage for away supporters and that allows all the supporters of all the teams to be able to go and watch their teams.
“Around some of the grounds, in my first time here and even now…the idea is, of course, if there is more away allocation it allows the ground to be filled, and obviously to give money and resources to the away team, then of course we would like to be able to do that.
“But I also understand it from a football perspective why maybe you wouldn’t want so many away supporters in.
“But hopefully the federation can standardise a number and then we all know where we stand.”
Rodgers backed his team to handle the atmosphere.
“Any team playing away, it’s always nice to have a fairly large group of your supporters there to give you that backing but if they are not there, then we can’t use that as an excuse,” he said.
“We have shown already with no supporters that we can get big results. We will be very much together and the 500-odd supporters that will be there, hopefully we can give them a good day.”
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