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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
No Celtic apology
Celtic chief Ian McLeod and Rangers' chairman John McClelland
Celtic and Rangers disagreed over the date for their next fixture

Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod says the row over the controversial date for the next Old Firm derby could have been handled better but offered no apology for his club's actions.

McLeod went into Thursday's Scottish Premier League meeting saying he had no regrets, despite the previous day's embarrassing withdrawal of Celtic's objection.

But, after his face-to-face with the other 11 clubs, he said: "I regret how the situation has emerged and hopefully, going forward, we can all ensure that there is no need for a repetition."

McLeod had said that forcing Celtic to play on 27 April could ignite crowd trouble as it would leave his club's fans feeling a sense of injustice.

The BBC live televised match against leaders Rangers that will go a long way to deciding the Scottish title will be played three days after Celtic's Uefa Cup semi-final second leg in Portugal against Boavista.

Celtic have now accepted that the police want the match played, for security reasons, on the first available date after the league splits into two sections of six.

They have said some things that are regrettable
Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston

But, as he arrived for the SPL's monthly meeting, McLeod stressed: "What we said was that there was a risk that there would be a perception of bias and I have to say that I think that is still true.

"There had been growing support for Celtic in this matter from other SPL chairmen, but we were not going to ask them to vote against police advice."

Rangers chairman John McClelland has suggested that the 27 April date had been pencilled in as far back as August.

Strathclyde Police issued a statement on Friday, published on this website and broadcast on BBC television, backing the date as it was the only one available when it could not possibly be a championship decider.

But McLeod has attempted to shift the blame on SPL officials, insisting that the first he knew "with clarity" of the police stance was when he read it in newspapers on Wednesday.

He said that Celtic had already decided to withdraw their appeal against the fixture date before meeting with police on Wednesday morning.

Celtic manager Martin O'Neill had been quoted as suggesting that the decision would have been different had Rangers been in the same position as his club.

"I don't think the club are left looking silly at all," McLeod insisted.

"There is frustration at the fact we have two days to prepare for an important match and, when you are competitors and have that frustration, it is going to show."

Celtic lie eight points behind Rangers but with two games in hand.

"I do not regard this as a botched attempt," added McLeod.

"We had legitimate concerns and a strong argument to have the match moved to a different date."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Jim Traynor of the Daily Record
"I think Celtic have embarrassed and humiliated their club"


CELTIC

RANGERS

SEE ALSO
Date 'known in August'
17 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier
Gold urges fan calm
16 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier
Celtic lose fixture battle
16 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier
Mitchell backs SPL
16 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier
Celtic winning date row
15 Apr 03  |  Celtic
Celtic branded moaners
15 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier
O'Neill blasts fixture decision
11 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier
Some sympathy with Celtic
11 Apr 03  |  Celtic
Old Firm date angers Celtic
10 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier
O'Neill says derby is key
06 Apr 03  |  Scottish Premier

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