St Johnstone have announced plans to increase the ticket allocation for visiting Celtic and Rangers fans, giving the Glasgow clubs three out of four stands at McDiarmid Park.
The move, which will be trialled in the next Premiership matches against the sides, will involve some season ticket holders being moved from their usual seats.
However, St Johnstone insist the move will solve some problems and is in the best interests of the club.
When Saints play Celtic on January 29 and Rangers on February 23, the home support will all be housed in the West Stand, with the North, South and East handed over to the opposition.
The decision was announced in a lengthy statement on the club website, where it was explained that the games posed a “challenge” but that changes would consider “the safety, comfort and interests of fans and the overall impact on the club both from an administrative and financial perspective.”
Fans of the Perth club had mixed reactions to the news.
The statement read: “Fans are the life blood of any Football Club. None more so than our much valued Season Ticket Holders.
For some time now, the logistics of administering the home matches involving Celtic FC and Rangers FC has been something of a challenge for the club.
“Seat allocation, ever changing fixture dates and kick off times and a noticeable lack of enthusiasm from our supporters in the fixtures themselves, have all combined to produce a marked reduction in season ticket attendees at Celtic and Rangers fixtures over the years.
“Previous incentives such as “bring a friend for £10” was introduced, but there was very little uptake on this opportunity.
“The club makes a huge effort to ensure that visiting fans do not purchase tickets for Home areas of the ground. Increased demand from away fans and the requirements of the SPFL has meant that there has been a restricted ability to provide an “open sale” of tickets to our own fans.
“Various efforts have been made to address the challenges posed by these matches and this has, in the past, involved the relocation of valued season ticket holders in the East and Ormond Stands to other areas of the stadium.
“Season ticket holders can be very proprietorial over their allocated seats and understandably so. Many may have held by them for a number of years and some have been in their families since the stadium opened. This is recognised and appreciated by the board.
“However, the new road and safety requirements, which involve and affect the safety aspects of these fixtures has resulted in material changes in the way in which Celtic and Rangers fixtures will require to be administered in the future.
“With this in mind, the board has carefully considered how best to deal with these challenges, taking into account the safety, comfort and interests of our fans and the overall impact on the club both from an administrative and financial perspective.
“With the foregoing in mind, the board has decided to trial the remaining matches this season against both Celtic FC and Rangers FC, with an increased allocation to away fans and all Saints fans will be accommodated in the West Stand.
“This stand accommodates in excess of 3000 fans, which going by recent analysis will be sufficient to accommodate the projected likely number of attendees from our home support.
“Existing West Stand season ticket holders will be entitled to retain their usual allocated seat. East Stand season ticket holders will be provided with alternative unallocated seating within the West Stand.
“The remaining three stands (North, East and South) will be allocated to away fans.
“The desired result of the amended allocation would be the following:
- comfort of our fans creating a partisan atmosphere
- implementation of amended traffic management
- ease of ticket sales for home fans
- increased income for the club in order to balance the increased spend on our playing squad
- in line with similar practices adopted elsewhere
“The club hopes that our valued supporters will understand the reasoning behind the introduction of this trial and the Board welcomes all feedback on the experiences of our fans at the next few matches, prior to making a decision on any long term arrangements.”