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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Old Firm date angers Celtic
Barry Ferguson holds off Celtic's Stilian Petrov
Rangers will host Celtic in a crucial league meeting on 27 April
Angry Celtic have warned of potential crowd trouble after the final Old Firm match of the season was scheduled three days after their Uefa Cup semi-final second leg against Boavista.

Chief executive Ian McLeod claims that his club's fans could be fired up by feelings of bias against them following Thursday's Scottish Premier League decision.

And he plans to take his protests about the Sunday 27 April date, which is likely to decide the destination of the league title, to the police and the Government.

Reigning champions Celtic lie eight points behind Glasgow rivals and league leaders Rangers but with two games in hand.

Celtic fear that the exertions of their Uefa Cup tie will not assist their cause at Ibrox and McLeod said: "We are appalled by this decision.

"There is absolutely no requirement or justification to schedule this crucial fixture for a date only two days after Celtic return from the second leg of the Uefa Cup semi-final in Portugal."

The SPL's decision will inevitably be regarded amongst Celtic supporters as a biased one
Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod

The SPL board appear to have been swayed by the fact that 27 April is the only available date when it was not mathematically possible to be a championship decider.

But McLeod said: "Four alternative dates are available and are far more suitable both from a fair, sporting and public safety perspective.

"Celtic made its concerns extremely clear to the SPL regarding the competitive disadvantage that would result from such deliberate scheduling.

"The SPL's decision will inevitably be regarded amongst Celtic supporters as a biased one, in advance of what is expected to be the most important SPL match of this season."

But McLeod also believes safety issues have been ignored by the SPL board.

"A far more worrying issue is that there will now be genuine and extremely serious safety concerns surrounding this match because of the perceptions of bias and inequality," he said.

"Celtic considers the fact that these concerns have effectively been disregarded by the SPL to be wholly irresponsible on the part of the league.

"The process followed by the SPL in advance of this decision has been flawed, crucially in relation to the lack of comprehensive consultation with Strathclyde Police and both clubs."

Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod
Ian McLeod will take his concerns to the Scottish Executive
The SPL stress that they consulted both clubs and put it to a vote of all 12 clubs after a date agreeable to both could not be found.

But McLeod said: "The steadfast resolve of the SPL executive to sit on the fence on this issue and defer from effective advice or leadership is equally disappointing.

"Neither Celtic nor any fair-minded football supporter can condone this poor decision.

"We will be working hard to have it reversed by registering our concerns with the Scottish Executive, Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde Police and the SFA."

The Scottish Premier League splits into two after this weekend's games and the fixtures will be announced on Monday.

Crowd trouble in 1999 led to an SPL wish, along with the police, to avoid a final-day showdown between the intense city rivals.





WATCH AND LISTEN
James Traynor of the Daily Record
"I am very concerned at this Celtic statement"


VOTE RESULTS
Who will win Thursday's first leg?
Celtic
 79.78% 
Boavista
 20.22% 
8654 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


CELTIC

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