Hearts boss Craig Levein fumes at “madness” SPFL Betfred Cup decision

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Hearts manager Craig Levein has hit out at the SPFL and Neil Doncaster for their decision to schedule the Hearts v Celtic at 7.45pm on a Sunday night.

• READ MORE: Over 4,500 sign Hearts fan’s petition against scheduling of Betfred Cup semi-final

Hearts manager Craig Levein has had his say on the Betfred Cup scheduling. Picture: SNS/Ross MacDonald

Hearts manager Craig Levein has had his say on the Betfred Cup scheduling. Picture: SNS/Ross MacDonald

Due to Celtic and Rangers competing in the Europa League on the Thursday night prior to the semi-finals, both games have been moved to Sunday, 28 October at Hampden Park.

Aberdeen’s match against Rangers will kick-off at 12pm, with Hearts playing Celtic at 7.45pm.

Hearts issued a statement on Thursday expressing their concern about the scheduling and Levein has branded the decision “the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced in football”.

He said: “How they have come to this decision is beyond belief. It’s madness, honestly. There’s so many things that could go wrong. The first thing, we’ve not been to a semi final for five years. We want to go and play at Hampden and we want our supporters to be there in numbers. That is my priority.

“I want 50 per cent of the tickets. I want to go to Hampden and make it feel like we’ve got a huge Hearts presence there and there’s one thing for certain, we’re not getting that on a Sunday night at 7.45. We’re not getting that.

“I’ve got players talking to me about how disappointed their families are, that they can’t come and watch their dad playing in a semi-final. That’ll go for our supporters. Our supporters and probably Aberdeen are the ones that suffer most because of the travelling arrangements and also because of the very nature of when the game is.

“I just don’t understand how they can come to that decision and think it is alright. That’s the thing, it doesn’t compute with me. We need supporters to come to make it what it is and we’re actually discouraging them from coming to the game. It’s absolute madness.”

He added: “See if it goes ahead at 7.45pm on a Sunday night, I want us to get 50 per cent of the tickets. If we get 25,000 tickets and we only sell 15,000 this club will take no responsibility for that. That will fall fair and square back at the feet of Neil Doncaster and the SPFL because they made the decision to put a game on that does not suit supporters.”

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The Hearts boss is keen for the game to be moved, even if it gives up the advantage Hearts gain from playing Celtic after a European fixture.

He said: “Here’s an option: Our biggest advantage against Celtic in this semi-final is Celtic playing on the Thursday evening in Europe. In my opinion I would give that up to have 25,000 Hearts supporters at Hampden to help us. We play Celtic the following week [in the league] so why don’t we just cancel that game, reschedule it further down the line and play that day.

“What’s wrong with that? Is that not a better solution?

“See when somebody says that the best option is X then I assume that they’ve looked at other options. If you’re saying that’s the best option then you must have looked at the rest. For me, why don’t you just change the game against Celtic to be the cup tie. Is that not a better option?”

The reason both games are taking place at Hampden Park is that the SPFL claim their is a contractual agreement in place which they are obliged to follow. Something which doesn’t sit well with Levein.

He said: “Only if the Old Firm are involved, eh? And who wrote that? Who signed that contract?

“See if you looked ahead and you envisaged that Celtic might not be in the Champions League and there’s a chance they might be in the Europa League that would be a huge red flag immediately. So why would you sign a contract that said that? It just doesn’t make sense.”

He added: “It’s turned what should be a magnificent experience for everybody into a situation where people don’t want to go. It’s farcical.

“Let me go back to this: If they are saying this is the best solution then they’ve not done their jobs properly. In fact, it could possibly be the worst decision.”

• READ MORE: Peter Haring loving Hearts life as a table-topping semi-finalist

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