Finals spots could put Hibs’ season into June

Hibs are on the cusp of the Scottish Cup final
Hibs are on the cusp of the Scottish Cup final
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The Scottish football season is likely to be extended into June if Hibs or Falkirk make the finals of both the Scottish Cup and the promotion play-offs.

Either the Capital club or the Bairns are guaranteed a place in the showpiece game of the season at Hampden on May 30, having been drawn together in the semi-final, but both are still battling it out to win one of the three play-offs spots in the Championship and that could leave the authorities with a fixture nightmare.

As it stands, the dates for the play-off final, between one of three Championship sides and the team finishing second bottom of the Premiership, have been set for the Thursday preceding the cup final and the day after.

But, the Evening News understands, the SPFL are already looking at a possible “Plan B” with the Championship clubs naturally feeling they would be disadvantaged in being asked to play the first leg of the play-off just two days – or even in the week – before the cup final, while no-one would envisage them being told to play the second leg less than 24 hours later.

However, complicating discussions are the timings of the Europa League and Champions League finals, to be played, respectively, in Warsaw on Wednesday, May 27, and Saturday, June 6, in Berlin, dates which are sacrosanct as far as UEFA are concerned, with no other matches being allowed on those days.

A further consideration will be that the Premiership side involved will find their last game is on Saturday, May 23, leaving them with a lengthy wait before the play-offs if both legs are pushed back as the Championship clubs would undoubtedly demand.

Today Hibs boss Alan Stubbs admitted he was well aware of such a scenario developing, even more so now his side will face the Bairns at Hampden on April 18 or 19, but insisted his players have to concentrate on making it become a reality.

He said: “The most important thing is we’ve got games before then so I don’t really want to speak about something we haven’t achieved yet. It’s important not to get too carried away. This possibility was always going to arise and the draw has made it more likely. If we do get to that stage, great.

“If we had to play Thursday, Saturday, Monday, in order to achieve success, then that’s what you have to do. When you are winning games, it doesn’t matter how quickly they come. You get on with it. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We’ve heard there could be a Plan B in place, so we’ll see what that is.”

Another problem that might arise is the fact some players will be going out-of-contract on May 31. But to that end Stubbs appealed to Hibs fans to snap up their season tickets for next season early to help him hang on to the players he wants to keep and make moves for fresh talent as quickly as possible.

The Easter Road club has revealed prices will be reduced by an average five per cent, with an “early bird” promotion also available under which supporters can benefit from discounted prices and an 11-month interest free payment plan.

On possible contract issues at the end of the season, Stubbs said: “We’ve spoken about it and we’re obviously in dialogue with the authorities over what we would do with that. If season ticket sales go well, we can do all our business early – and we wouldn’t have to cross that bridge.

“We’re not hiding the fact that this is important to the club and myself, with regard to shaping the squad. We obviously want to be as competitive as we possibly can.

“If we can have a really successful early push for season tickets, it will help us to do our business very early, to try to speak to the players who we want to keep and get their contracts sorted out.”

Asked if that might be more difficult given he doesn’t know which league Hibs will be playing next season as yet, Stubbs said: “I don’t think it has too much relevance because we’re competitive, whatever league we are in, with the budget we have. If anyone wants to leave here, more often than not, it’s not for a bigger club.

“The players can see we’re very ambitious, looking to build something successful with this group. We are going in the right direction.”