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Scottish Premier League may face early start headache

Celtic are due to play in Dublin on Saturday 30 July
Celtic are due to play in a Dublin tournament on Saturday 30 July

By Jim Spence

The Scottish Premier League's hopes of an early start to next season may be scuppered by planned friendly matches for the Old Firm.

Saturday 23 July has been earmarked as a possible kick-off date. However, Celtic are due to play in the Dublin Super Cup on the following weekend.

SPL champions Rangers are not yet committed to any pre-season games but are sure to be in demand.

The SPL aim to announce the start day for the next campaign next week.

One option would be to play the second round of the League Cup on the weekend of the 30th since clubs involved in Europe are exempt.

However, Scottish Football League clubs may object to an earlier opening round to the tournament.

Many part-time clubs are likely to object to paying wages to players earlier than usual.

One SFL club director told BBC Scotland: "The Old Firm, the two richest clubs in Scotland want some of the poorest clubs in Scotland to miss out on pre-season friendlies, which are often their biggest earners of the season, so that they can play in pre-season friendlies to earn almost a million pounds.

"We are not saying we won't do it but the SFL board has been asked to speak to the SPL about the issue of compensation."

Some SPL clubs are also unhappy that Celtic have agreed to take part in Dublin before the season start date has been agreed.

And one SFL source told BBC Scotland: "There is a simple solution to this. The SPL should look after its own fixture list not ours, and schedule the Old Firm to play each other on 30 July.

"They could then allow them to reschedule the fixture themselves for the midweek. That way they can both play in tournaments without upsetting anyone else."

Celtic will line up against Manchester City, Inter Milan and an Irish League select in Dublin.

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