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Row deepens over League Cup semi-finals

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Rail bosses are investigating putting on more trains between Aberdeen and the central belt as the row over the timing of a crucial cup semi-final deepened yesterday.

There has been outrage across the country about the scheduling of the two Betfred league cup semi finals on Sunday October 28.

Aberdeen will play Rangers at noon and Hearts will play Celtic at 7.45pm – both on the Sunday at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

It is understood that organisers the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) made the decision due to advice from the police.

They are being held on the Sunday to allow the Old Firm teams to rest following European games during the week.

But the first train from the Granite City to Glasgow doesn’t arrive until 15 minutes after kick-off.

ScotRail bosses tweeted that the organisers of the competition had not been in touch with them.

A spokesman said: “This presents a significant logistical challenge which the organisers were well aware of before making the decision. We will assess all options to see what, if anything, is possible.”

Angry fans, managers and poiliticians have all hit out at the “crazy” decision.

Iain Ramsay of the Fraserburgh Dons supporters club said he feared an increase in violence with so many different fans in one part of Glasgow.

He added: “We will have to be leaving at 6am so some people, with young children, will have to be up at 5am.

“It’s crazy, they must have seen the European games coming.

“I don’t see why they can’t be played a week apart.”

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes and Hearts chief Craig Levein have also hit out.

McInnes said the decision was “really unfair” on the fans who will have to travel more than 140 miles and Levein said the timings were “madness”.

The Dons boss said: “The fact is our supporters are going to have to travel to Glasgow anyway, which is always the case when we get to semis and finals and we are well used to that.

“But I just feel find it really unfair. For them to try and get there for an early kick-off just makes it all the more problematic.”

Local politicians have also criticised the decision with north-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald writing letters to both the SPFL and police.

Aberdeen Central SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: “It’s a disgrace that Aberdeen fans are, once again, being treated with contempt.

“This seems to happen every single time Aberdeen get into a major semi-final or final and lessons are still not being learned.

“I have seen school playground kick-abouts that are better organised than the average cup semi-final. I hope that public transport operators are able to step-up and help ensure as many Dons fans as possible can get to Hampden and cheer the team on.”

Moray SNP MSP Richard Lochhead, who often attends Dons games with his two sons, called the kick off time “preposterously early” adding: “We should be doing everything possible to encourage fans, particularly the next generation, to be able to attend such a spectacle.”

Andrew Bowie, Scottish Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “This is a ridiculous decision that takes no account whatsoever of the fact the Aberdeen fans have to actually get to the game.

“A 12pm kick-off on a Sunday makes it impossible for any Dons supporters travelling by train to get to the match on time. The first scheduled service does not reach Glasgow until 12.15pm – fifteen minutes after kick-off.

“The football authorities should give some consideration to the fans, for once. They pay hard-earned money to follow their team week in and week out.

“However, when it comes to showpiece events like this, they are treated as an after-thought. It is a disgrace.”

The SPFL declined to comment.

Fixture mess

While the SPFL did not issue an official comment to the media, the organisation did publish a Q&A for fans on its website last night.

The organisation claimed it had liaised with police, who had enough resources to “manage the situation” and were happy with their decision – and also said it was the force’s preference that the Dons’ tie was the earlier kick-off.

In response to the criticism from the clubs involved, the league stated: “We explained to representatives from all four semi-finalists the rationale behind this decision. We understand their concerns about supporters and travel complications and sympathise with fans, but this is the best solution to a logistically-challenging situation.”

Meanwhile, it also defended its summer fixture planning by stating that there were “many issues” that needed to be factored in, including “premiership winter break, European football, international commitments and other cup tournaments”.

“While it is hugely prestigious for us to have two of our clubs in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, it has also presented us with logistical difficulties on this occasion,” the statement added.