Robbie Neilson has expressed sympathy for Hearts supporters who have been left out of pocket by the double rescheduling of the away leg of the Europa League qualifier against FC Infonet.
After Monday’s first qualifying round draw in Nyon, the Tynecastle side were initially down to be playing in Estonia next Thursday, 30 June. Several fans booked flights to Tallinn for this date before the tie was switched at the behest of UEFA, with Hearts told to host the first leg and then travel to the Baltic nation on 7 July.
Then yesterday, there was further disruption for the club and their travelling support when they were informed they would instead be playing the away leg a day earlier, on Wednesday, 6 July, meaning further tweaking of travel arrangements.
“It’s disappointing the way it’s turned out, but that’s European football – UEFA make the final decision on it,” said head coach Neilson. “We watched the draw and as soon as it was made, we’re thinking ‘right, we need to do this, we need to do that to get to Estonia.’ I’m sure a lot of fans were on websites right away, booking flights and hotels and then they find it has to be changed. It’s a difficult situation and I feel for them.
“I hope they haven’t lost a lot of money, but I think it was something to do with the other clubs in Tallinn also being drawn to play on the same day, but Infonet have the lowest co-efficient so they are the ones who have to move. Then it was changed from the Thursday to the Wednesday, I don’t know why that was. As well as the fans, it makes it more difficult for ourselves because we’ve now got a day less between the ties to prepare for the second leg.”
The second leg will kick off at 6.45pm local time (4.45pm UK time). It is set to be played at Estonia’s 10,000-capacity national stadium, Le Coq Arena, although this is awaiting official confirmation.