A Scottish Parliament committee has written to Hampden bosses calling on them to reconsider the late kick-off time for the Scottish Cup final next month.
Traditionally, the event had kicked off at 3pm but for this year’s final between Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the Scottish FA announced a 5.30pm start and thanked “all parties for their support in ensuring a slot commensurate with Scottish football’s showpiece occasion”.
The decision came after reports in the media that broadcasters were keen not to go up against the English cup final between Manchester United and Manchester City, which starts at 3pm.
Celtic and Inverness immediately made their displeasure known and suggested that full consultation had not taken place and their stance has now been backed by a parliament committee.
Clare Haughey, convener of the health, social care and sport committee, has written to Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell calling on them to reconsider their decision.
Haughey wrote: “As I am sure you will already be aware, this change of kick-off time has caused considerable disruption to those travelling fans who had already made travel arrangements prior to it being announced.
“Alongside the safety implications of a later kick-off time, there is also a concern that the decision sets a dangerous precedent for other major sporting events in Scotland and will be no less disruptive to the viewing public.
“On this basis, I would urge the SFA to reconsider its decision and to reinstate the traditional kick-off time of 3pm for this year’s Scottish Cup Final.
“In responding to this letter, I would also request that you give the Committee an understanding of the reasons behind the SFA’s decision to change the kick-off time and, in reaching that decision, to outline any prior discussions you have had with Scottish Government Ministers, with transport service providers and with fan associations to ensure any associated disruption to individual travel plans would be kept to an acceptable minimum.
“If it is no longer possible to reinstate the original kick-off time of 3pm, I would also ask you to outline what further steps you will be taking to ensure the safety of all those attending the match, including adequate transport provision to enable travelling fans to return home safely afterwards, most notably those who will be travelling considerable distances.”
‘Not in the interests of both sets of fans’
At the time of the initial announcement, a Celtic statement read: “We are hugely disappointed that the Scottish Cup Final has been moved from its traditional 3pm slot, something we don’t believe was necessary, or in the best interests of both sets of supporters.
“Additionally, there was no meaningful consultation with Celtic on this matter, in terms of assessing the many issues affecting supporters attending the match – something which is also extremely regrettable.”
Inverness joined Celtic in their criticism, stating that they had told the tournament organisers of their concerns in writing ahead of the decision.
A message to supporters on the Inverness website read: “Following on from today’s SFA Cup Final announcement and the rescheduling of our match to 5.30pm on Saturday June 3rd, the club is obviously very disappointed. We believe the showpiece Scottish occasion should have remained at 3pm.
“We made this known to the SFA last Thursday and we reiterated our view in writing on Sunday following our semi-final win at the weekend. It is certainly not in the interest of both sets of fans and as we know, our own supporters will be greatly inconvenienced by the travel challenges they now face.
“Unfortunately we could not effect the final decision to move the match. We were awaiting the match details and now hope to make ticket information known in the next 24 hours.”
The last train to leave Glasgow for Inverness on the day of the final is scheduled for 7.40pm, which would not be viable for any fan staying until the final whistle.