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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Celtic lose fixture battle
Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill and Celtic are furious about the fixture decision
Celtic have backed down over their bid to have the date changed for the final Old Firm match of the season.

The club's decision appears to follow talks on Wednesday at which Strathclyde Police stressed their preference for Celtic's meeting with Rangers to be played on 27 April because of fears over fan violence.

Celtic had complained that this date was unfair as it is three days after their visit to Portugal to face Boavista in their Uefa Cup semi-final second leg.

But they have now urged their fans to accept the decision and not cause problems during a game at Ibrox that will prove vital in the race for the Scottish Premier League title.

The 12 SPL clubs were due to have another vote on Thursday following Celtic's appeal against the decision.

The club strongly urges all of its supporters to respect the decision
Celtic statement
But a Celtic statement said on Wednesday: "The club has always accepted that, because of the unfortunate incidents surrounding the Celtic v Rangers fixture on 2 May 1999, public safety considerations must take precedence over sporting fairness in this case.

"It is the decision of Strathclyde Police that, from a public safety perspective, Sunday 27 April is the more appropriate of the two dates offered by the SPL, the other being Saturday 3 May.

"Celtic respects the authority of Strathclyde Police and accepts their decision on this matter.

"On this basis, the club has now withdrawn its request for a re-vote amongst the SPL board members on the question of the date for the match.

"Clearly, this outcome will disappoint Celtic supporters because the sporting inequality resulting from playing the match on 27 April remains.

"Nevertheless, the club strongly urges all of its supporters to respect the decision that has been taken to play the match on 27 April and, regardless of the final score, to refrain from any behaviour that would bring the good name of Celtic Football Club and its supporters into disrepute."

Publication of the final five rounds of fixtures had been due on Monday but was delayed while Celtic's appeal was being considered.

The SPL had proposed 27 April as it was the only date available that could not possibly become a title decider.

SPL chairman Lex Gold said in a statement: "We warmly welcome the statement from Celtic, which recognises the basis upon which the original decision to schedule the match on April 27 was made."

Crowd trouble in 1999, including a coin striking referee Hugh Dallas, had led to a decision by the SPL and the police to avoid such showdowns between the Glasgow rivals.

Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod had claimed that the choice of 27 April could cause problems as it would leave his club's support with a sense of grievance over what they would see as a decision biased in favour of Rangers.

But moving the match back one week was also be problematic as it is a Bank Holiday weekend, viewed by police as a more volatile period as fans have more drinking time.

Reigning champions Celtic are eight points behind leaders Rangers but have two games in hand.

BBC football correspondent Chick Young
"Celtic should get on with it more gracefully now"



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