Hampden Park to host both Betfred Cup semi-finals on the same day
Hearts' Betfred Cup semi-final with Celtic will kick-off at 7.45pm at Hampden Park on Sunday, October 28 - after the other semi between Aberdeen and Rangers.
The Scottish Professional Football League confirmed that they will stage both ties at the National Stadium on the same day in a unique move. Switching one of the games to BT Murrayfield had been considered but, after talks with all four clubs involved, league officials claim they are contractually obliged to hold both semi-finals at Hampden.
Aberdeen v Rangers will kick-off at 12pm, with Hearts against Celtic taking place at 7.45pm in the evening. The decision is likely to cause travel difficulties for Hearts supporters getting home from Glasgow late on a Sunday night, but the SPFL stated they had explored every possibility after the fixtures clashed.
The Saturday and Sunday of October 27 and 28 were initially set aside for League Cup semis at Hampden. However, Celtic and Rangers are in Europa League action on the preceding Thursday, October 25. Celtic are in Germany to play RB Leipzig, whilst Rangers host Spartak Moscow at Ibrox.
That made scheduling one of the semi-finals 48 hours later on the Saturday almost impossible. With a full Premiership card the following midweek, delaying one tie until the Monday wasn't feasible either. Both games on the Sunday was the preferred option. The SPFL secretary Iain Blair released a statement to explain the decision.
He said: "We knew going into last night’s Betfred Cup draw there was a chance that if Rangers and Celtic reached the Betfred Cup semi-finals the draw could keep them apart, and because they both have a UEFA Europa League match on Thursday 25 October, we had to find a solution which gave them the necessary two-day gap between competitive matches.
"We’ve been working hard with Police Scotland and Hampden Park on contingency planning for exactly this scenario and, together, we examined every possible permutation. The crowded fixture calendar means that this is the best and most practical solution as any alternative had the knock-on effect of causing major fixture congestion, not only for Celtic and Rangers, but for several other SPFL clubs.
"We met with representatives of all four clubs earlier today and explained that this was the only feasible outcome. The fact that both Celtic and Rangers are in Europe, and will hopefully be playing in the Europa League after the New Year, is obviously good news for Scottish football, but it does mean that our capacity for rescheduling games is significantly curtailed.
"We can confirm that Police Scotland have advised that the Aberdeen vs Rangers game should be played first."
A Hampden Park Limited spokesman said: “We have already started the detailed planning process which is standard practice for all major events at the stadium. Hampden is the home of Scottish football and we all look forward to assisting our SPFL colleagues with the delivery of two very exciting Betfred Cup semi-finals at the stadium."