ANN BUDGE has launched a withering attack on the SPFL for having “a total disregard for supporters” after Hearts’ final match of the season against Rangers was controversially switched from Saturday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime with just 17 days’ notice.
It was announced today that the eagerly-awaited Tynecastle showdown, after which Hearts are due to receive the Championship trophy, will now take place at 12.30pm on Sunday, May 3 in order to be shown live on television.
Angry supporters immediately condemned the switching of the game to such a widely unpopular timeslot at such short notice, citing the disruptive effect it will have on their plans for the weekend. Hearts were similarly enraged and tonight chairwoman Budge released a statement on the club website explaining that she will be sending a formal complaint to the SPFL “in relation to this appallingly late decision.”
It read: “On learning of the change, I immediately attempted to contact the SPFL and objected in strong terms to the proposed late change to this fixture on the grounds of it having a total disregard for the interests of supporters of both clubs and an apparent disregard for sporting integrity. I also spoke directly to Police Scotland who share our frustration and informed me that they had written with some strong reasons for objecting to the changed fixture, including duplication of work for them, re-allocation of resources, etc. but once again, to no avail. “Being given 17 days’ notice of this change is extremely disruptive and potentially very expensive for the fans, the sponsors and indeed the club. Overseas supporters have been in touch to advise that they will lose substantial amounts on travel; others have advised of lost earnings, holiday problems, etc. None of this is good for any of us and on behalf of the club, I can only apologise.”
Hearts are also concerned that their game is the only Championship fixture which has been moved at a time when Rangers and Hibs could still be vying for second place. Traditionally, all games on the last day of a season kick off at the same time to prevent any team having a perceived advantage of knowing exactly what result they require to achieve their objective. In this case, Rangers could benefit from such a scenario.
“When it became apparent to us that our fixture was the only game to be moved, we were equally alarmed as, rightly or wrongly, this casts a shadow over the sporting integrity of the Championship,” added Budge. “I will be sending in a formal complaint to the SPFL in relation to this appallingly late decision. It is no wonder that clubs are finding it harder and harder to gain support from their fans when their interests can be so blatantly disregarded, especially at such short notice.”
Supporter Craig Wilson added: “We could have handled it if they moved it forward to 12.30pm on Saturday, but to change the day at this late stage is not right. We haven’t won a league title for 35 years so people will have already planned their weekend around this game.”
The SPFL released a statement which read: “In response to recent criticisms of the Championship fixture scheduling for the weekend May 2-3, we’d like to clarify some points. On this weekend, the Hearts v Rangers match is scheduled for Sunday, May 3 to be broadcast on television and it is not clear to us why this has caused so much surprise. This is a key game in the Championship season and will inevitably attract huge interest from fans around the world.”