At 10.43am today, the club received notice from the SPFL that our last home game of the season v Rangers is to be moved to Sunday 3rd May at 12.30pm. This was the first notification of any change that we received.
This has been done following selection of the game for a live TV broadcast. While we all knew that this was likely to be a strong candidate for televising and that the time might well change, we did not for one minute think that at this late stage, it would be moved to the Sunday….especially given our belief that all Championship games would require to be played at the same time.
Previously in the season we delayed the sale of tickets for the first Rangers game as long as we could as we realised that this fixture was highly attractive to broadcasters and likely for selection. In relation to this game, we attempted to do the same but in this case, it would seem to no avail.
On learning of the change, I immediately attempted to contact the SPFL and objected in strong terms to the proposed late change to this fixture on the grounds of it having a total disregard for the interests of supporters of both clubs and an apparent disregard for sporting integrity. I also spoke directly to Police Scotland who share our frustration and informed me that they had written with some strong reasons for objecting to the changed fixture, including duplication of work for them, re-allocation of resources, etc. but once again, to no avail.
Being given 17 days’ notice of this change is extremely disruptive and potentially very expensive for the fans, the sponsors and indeed the club. Overseas supporters have been in touch to advise that they will lose substantial amounts on travel; others have advised of lost earnings, holiday problems, etc.
None of this is good for any of us and on behalf of the club, I can only apologise.
When it also became apparent to us that our fixture was the only game to be moved, we were equally alarmed as rightly or wrongly, this casts a shadow over the sporting integrity of the Championship. While it may not be enshrined in the newly merged rule book of the SPFL, it is protocol the football world over for fixtures such as the last day of the Championship to be played simultaneously. To move only one, (or even 2 or 4) out of 5 fixtures would seem to be leaving our game wide open to unsavoury accusations. I wrote, raising this point, to the SPFL, copying all clubs. Correspondence received from the SPFL asking Championship clubs to state their case for a move, does little to alleviate our concerns re the perception of this matter.
I will be sending in a formal complaint to the SPFL in relation to this appallingly late decision. It is no wonder that clubs are finding it harder and harder to gain support from their fans when their interests can be so blatantly disregarded, especially at such short notice.
I am advised that this complaint will likely have no impact on the original decision but nevertheless, I want our supporters to know that we have taken all and any action that we could have and I will further comment on the situation once we have been updated by the League.