Hearts baffled as SPFL do a u-turn on home fixtures agreement

Ann Budge
Ann Budge
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Hearts will not play league matches at Tynecastle in August and plan to reverse scheduled games against Kilmarnock and Motherwell.

The Scottish Professional Football League issued fixtures for season 2017/18 yesterday and handed the Edinburgh club two home Premiership matches on August 12 and 26.

Those will be moved while Hearts complete £12million of redevelopment work at their ground. Owner Ann Budge had asked the SPFL to grant away matches until Tynecastle’s scheduled new main stand opening on September 9 against Aberdeen. However, that request was ignored.

Budge must now ask Kilmarnock and Motherwell to reverse the fixtures in question and play them at Rugby Park and Fir Park respectively on the same dates.

The only other option would be to apply to the SPFL for two free weekends as there is no chance of the new stand being ready before September.

Hearts’ start to the league campaign is tough with a trip to champions Celtic on August 5. Then it’s Kilmarnock at home, a visit to Ibrox, Motherwell at home and the encounter with Aberdeen in Gorgie on September 9.

It seems certain that the SPFL would agree to reversing the Kilmarnock and Motherwell matches. Their decision to issue Hearts home fixtures in August left Budge and her fellow directors perplexed after league officials indicated they would ensure a run of away games to start the campaign.

A statement on the Hearts website read: “Hearts will begin their 2017/18 Ladbrokes Premiership campaign with an away trip to Celtic.

“The Jambos will face the champions at Celtic Park on Saturday, August 5. Please note that this fixture, as with every other fixture, is subject to change due to TV selections, which are yet to be confirmed.

“The club previously agreed with the SPFL that no home games would be scheduled for Tynecastle prior to September 9, 2017. However, the computer model used by the SPFL could not accommodate this scheduling.

“Therefore, although today’s published fixture list shows that Hearts are due home matches in rounds two and four, there is absolute clarity and agreement that this will not be possible and these games will not be played at Tynecastle.

“We have been assured by the SPFL that this is not an issue and our fellow Premiership clubs have all been very co-operative and sympathetic to our position. We are therefore urgently exploring the different options available to us with regards to rearranging these two fixtures and an announcement will be made shortly.

“Aberdeen will be the first visitors to the newly refurbished Tynecastle Park, with a meeting between the Jambos and the Dons scheduled for September 9.”

As part of a statement on their website, the SPFL confirmed they would be open to letting Hearts play Kilmarnock and Motherwell away from home in August: “Hearts are hoping to have their new main stand operational by early September. We will liaise with Hearts and their opponents regarding the two August home fixtures,” said the statement.

Budge is also privately unhappy that the first two Edinburgh derbies of the season against Hibs - on October 25 at Easter Road and December 27 at Tynecastle - are midweek affairs.

Hearts’ statement continued: “The first Edinburgh derby of the season will be a midweek encounter at Easter Road on October 25, followed by the first derby in front of the new Main Stand on December 27, with the final pre-split meeting occurring on March 10 in Leith.”