Playing both Scottish League Cup semi-finals at Hampden on the same day is the “craziest thing”, “beyond belief” and “madness”, says Hearts manager Craig Levein.
Aberdeen meet Rangers at 12:00 GMT on Sunday, 28 October, before Hearts play Celtic at 19:45 in Glasgow.
Organisers say it is “the best solution” because both Old Firm clubs have Europa League games on 25 October.
“Its absolute madness. I just dont understand how they can think its all right. It just doesnt compute with me.
“I have got players talking to me about how disappointed their families are that they cant come and watch their dad playing in a semi final.”
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Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes joined the chorus of criticism, describing the treatment of his clubs fans as “really unfair”.
Aberdeen branded the SPFLs decision to schedule both Betfred Cup semi-finals at Hampden on the same day appalling. The Dons released the statement following Thursdays announcement with the SPFL insisting it is the only feasible solution to their scheduling predicament. (The Scotsman)
The Pittodrie club said they were “appalled” by the scheduling as they have “repeatedly asked” for the authorities to stop giving them “completely unacceptable” kick-off times.
Both Hearts and Aberdeen have approached the SPFL with alternatives, but the league are adamant that the current plans are the only ones Police Scotland will sign off.
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard admitted he was “delighted” his side would be playing first on the Hampden surface, while Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said the schedule looked like it would pose a “major challenge”.
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“The organisers and police must feel that it will be under control,” he said. “We see the issues around it, both on the pitch and off the pitch. We can only control how we prepare for the game now.”
In the aftermath of Hearts quarter-final win over Motherwell on Wednesday, Levein said his side would play their last-four tie “wherever” they have to after Murrayfield was mooted as a potential venue.
However, after the scheduling was confirmed on Thursday, the clubs owner Ann Budge said in a statement she was “astonished” by the decision.
Levein – who is also Hearts director of football – continued that theme on Friday, with his ire centred around a desire to have as many Hearts fans as possible at the clubs first cup semi-final in five years.
“I want 50% of the tickets, I want to go to Hampden and make it feel like we have a huge Hearts presence there. One thing is for certain we are not getting that on a Sunday night at 19:45,” he said.
“See if it goes ahead at that time, I want 50% of the tickets. So if we get 25,000 and only sell 15,000 this club will take no responsibility for that.
“This will fall fair and square at the feet of Neil Doncaster and the SPFL. They made the decision to put a game on which does not suit supporters. Its absolute madness.
“We have just told them it doesnt suit us and Aberdeen have told them it doesnt suit them. The Old Firm have support from all over the country so it wont suit some of their supporters either.”
In their own angry statement on Thursday – in which they said they were “appalled” by the scheduling – Aberdeen suggested holding the two semi-finals on consecutive weekends.
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Levein described that as “a better solution”, even if it mean his side giving up their “biggest advantage” of facing Celtic in the wake of a Thursday night European tie.
“When somebody says that the best option is option X. I assume they have looked at other options,” Levein said.
“We play Celtic the following week. Why dont we just cancel that, reschedule it, and play that day? Whats wrong with that? Is that not the better option? Its not too late.”
Rangers fans will come out of the game to head for a pint and every pub around will be full of Celtic fans boozing for their game.
Levein also scoffed at the SPFLs protestation that they have a contractual obligation to play both games at Hampden, suggesting it was only the case “if the Old Firm are involved”.
Hearts owner Budge said she asked if the organisation could apply for an exemption given the circumstances, but was told a formal request had been unsuccessful.
“Who wrote that contract? Who signed that contract? It just doesnt make sense,” Levein added. “Im getting annoyed. I just dont understand how you can say this is the best option.
“We have not even talked about some of the others things that could go wrong – 100,000 supporters from four different clubs in Glasgow at the same time?
“Why would you tempt fate with so many things that could happen that would tarnish the name of Scottish football. Its farcical. Its not the best solution. In fact it could possibly be the worst decision.”
During talks on Thursday between themselves, the SPFL and the four clubs, Police Scotland advised the Aberdeen v Rangers game should be played first.
Aberdeen say they “appreciate” that view, but believe “other options should have been investigated further”.
The Pittodrie side have been unhappy with numerous lunchtime trips to the central belt, including their journeys to Kilmarnock and Hampden Park in late 2016.
One option was to move a game to Murrayfield but the SPFL is contractually obliged to stage both games at Hampden.
Aberdeen is around 150 miles from Glasgow and the first train between the two cities on that Sunday arrives 14 minutes after kick-off.
BBC Scotland understands that talks are ongoing between the Pittodrie club and Scotrail about providing extra trains.
“This presents a significant logistical challenge, which the organisers were well aware of before making the decision,” Scotrail tweeted. “Well assess all options to see what, if anything, is possible.”
Aberdeen boss McInnes acknowledge that a “perfect scenario” was unlikely, given Dons fans always have to travel to the central belt for semi-finals and finals.
“For them to try and get there for an early kick-off just makes it all the more problematic. Im sure that would have been taken into account but it doesnt seem to have been important enough,” he said.
“Its important we dont take the fans for granted. There were alternatives. Were not happy with it, but we accept it and look forward to trying to get to a final with a 15:00 kick off.”