BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Falkirk chairman Doug Henderson has called on the SPFL to reverse their decision to switch the final round of Championship fixtures to May 1, dubbing the move “inconsiderate” and insisting there will be financial ramifications.
The governing body made the decision to move all matches from the original April 30 slot after Rangers’ trip to St Mirren was selected by BT Sport for live television coverage.
It was deemed that all matches should be played simultaneously given, mathematically, the Buddies’ fixture could still have a bearing of the race for promotion and the fight to avoid relegation.
In all likelihood, however, the Gers’ result in Paisley is unlikely to affect matters at the top or bottom of the table, with St Mirren 10 points clear of the drop-zone.
And the re-scheduling has provoked the ire of the Bairns, who had all-but sold-out their hospitality for their final fixture of the season at home to Morton and expect a wildly diminished attendance on the Sunday.
Several supporters’ events had also been scheduled for the Saturday evening coincide with the end of the regular campaign.
Falkirk sources last night confirmed that several match sponsors and hospitality customers have indicated they will no longer be able to support or attend the fixture 24 hours later.
Henderson has been in touch with Raith Rovers chief executive Eric Drysdale, a member of the SPFL board, in the hope he can spur a move to have the matches not involving Rangers reinstated to their original berth.
He said: “This decision is inconsiderate of our fans, not only because of the switch to a less convenient day, but also because end-of season supporters’ events have been planned for the Saturday.
“Clubs will lose out considerably at the gates and through the loss of hospitality.
“We are going through the proper channels to ask the SPFL to change its position – there’s still time to reverse their decision and respect the wishes of our fans.”
This is the second consecutive season that the final day of the Championship season has been the source of contention.
Last term the SPFL were forced into an embarrassing climb-down when Hearts’ home clash with Rangers on the final weekend was moved back 24 hours to accommodate television coverage – but they chose not to switch the remaining games.
This caused outrage as Hibs were still battling with Rangers for second spot and, despite the SPFL initially standing firm, all games were ultimately switched to a lunchtime kick-off on the Saturday.
On this occasion, however, erring on the side of caution in order to ensure that farcical situation does not repeat itself has provoked anger.
Henderson added: “We understand why the SPFL wanted to change the dates so that all the final day games took place at the same time. The reality is that none of the teams competing for the play-offs would be disadvantaged by allowing their games to take place on the Saturday.”
However, in a statement last night, the SPFL hit back: “All Ladbrokes Championship clubs were advised last Thursday that live broadcast selections for round 36 would be published on 4 April and that if a game was to be selected for live broadcast, all Ladbrokes Championship fixtures would be rescheduled to the live broadcast kick-off date and time.
“No comments were received from any club ahead of the announcement on 4 April of the rescheduling.
“With the potential for St Mirren’s result to have a bearing on final league places impacting on a large number of clubs, there is a clear need for a single kick-off time in the spirit of sporting fairness.
“We announced this decision at the earliest opportunity, rather than delay, to give supporters as much notice as possible. There will be no change to the schedule advised yesterday – all of the final day Ladbrokes Championship fixtures will take place on Sunday 1 May with a 12.30pm kick-off.”
Livingston, another club affected by the switch, were forced to an apology after a member of their social media team inadvertently used the club’s official Twitter account to express displeasure with the change.