Football - SFA defends Cup venue decision

The Scottish Football Association has defended its decision to name Celtic Park and Ibrox as the venues for the latter stages of the William Hill Scottish Cup by insisting that clubs wanted to know the stadia in advance.

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Celtic Park will be a venue for the latter stages of the William Hill Scottish Cup

With Hampden closed as an athletics track is laid for the Commonwealth Games, the SFA board decided that Rangers will host both semi-finals on April 12-13 while the final will be played at Parkhead on May 17.

When Hampden was being rebuilt in the late 1990s, decisions on final venues were taken on an ad-hoc basis in a bid to avoid teams being handed home advantage.

The SFA is now contractually obliged to host semi-finals at Hampden but it could have temporarily reverted to the previous norm of delaying decisions on last-four venues until after the quarter-finals to avoid a situation where Ibrox could be less than half full for a clash involving two smaller teams.

But the SFA claims clubs want advance knowledge and dismissed suggestions games could be played at Murrayfield, the Edinburgh home of Scottish rugby while insisting any venue would need to be able to accommodate at least 25,000.

In a series of tweets, the SFA said: "It is important for fixture planning schedules to announce the venues as early as possible.

"Ave s/f attendances are 25k+ so only two football stadia can accommodate those numbers.

"Member clubs (we are a members' organisation) preferred to know in advance where s/f and finals would be held.

"Stadium rental, insurance, stewarding etc all require planning well before finals and semi-finals. More cost-effective to arrange in advance.

"In terms of non-football venues, the Board's view was that revenue should remain within football."

SFA president Campbell Ogilvie earlier said in a statement: "We are fortunate in Scotland to have three world-class football stadia and, with Hampden Park due to undergo redevelopment work ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it is natural that we would seek to utilise both Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium as venues for Scottish football's premier cup competition."

Celtic Park, which last hosted the final when Hearts beat Rangers in 1998 during the rebuilding of Hampden, is Scotland's largest football stadium with a capacity of 60,355, making it a similar size to Murrayfield. Ibrox holds 51,082.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell is a member of the SFA board but he stated he sat out the venue selection process. And he defended the decision to name the venues so early.

"A decision like that, where Celtic or Celtic Park are competing against other stadia for the final, I would excuse myself because I'm conflicted clearly, and a decision was made by other board members," he said.

"There's a lot of planning that goes into it. The sponsors need to know where they are. It's the road to Celtic Park rather than the road to Hampden.

"There is a lot of preparation. There will be many permutations in there that will make sure Celtic Park is full and rather than taking the risk of delaying it, it gives us time to prepare. I guess there is no right answer, you just make the best answer with the facts available.

"I guess it's a question of choices. Hampden is unavailable and the SFA have a choice where to take it.

"When you compare Celtic Park to other stadia around Scotland, it's certainly the biggest. We cater for the Champions League, these are huge events, and we have every confidence of delivering a great cup final for them.

"It's a great honour and it will be a fantastic occasion. We believe Celtic Park is the biggest and best. You can see on Champions League nights, the atmosphere that is created. No matter who comes from around Europe, whether it's AC Milan or Barcelona, they say Celtic Park is the best.

"So we are delighted to have it and it will be a real thrill.

"There's incentive to get to the Scottish Cup final and win it every year but this might give us a wee bit of an additional incentive for us to get there and play the cup final at our own stadium."

Rangers finance director Brian Stockbridge welcomed the use of Ibrox for the last four.

He said: "The Scottish FA's decision to play these ties at the home of Scotland's most successful club underlines the fact that Ibrox remains one of European football's elite arenas.

"Of course we hope to travel far in this competition ourselves but no matter who plays at Ibrox they can be certain of the warmest of welcomes."

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