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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Celtic winning date row
Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill is furious about the date for his side's title showdown
Some Scottish Premier League clubs are poised to change their vote in Celtic's favour in the bitter row over the date for the final Old Firm match of the season.

Celtic have lodged a formal complaint about the plan to schedule their visit to Ibrox, which will be crucial to the destination of the title, three days after they travel to Portugal to face Boavista in the Uefa Cup semi-final second leg.

The SPL on Monday took the unprecedented step of delaying the publication of the final five rounds of fixtures after Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod described the scheduled date of the Old Firm encounter as biased and unfair.

SPL chairmen had last Thursday voted by a 6-3 majority, with two abstentions, in favour of playing the match on 27 April. Dundee did not vote.

But BBC Scotland has spoken to one club chairman who did not originally vote with Celtic but who has now been persuaded to back the reigning champions when their appeal is heard on Thursday.

If the police are now telling us something different, we would have to consider that
Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston
He is not the only chairman considering changing his stance following vigorous lobbying by Celtic.

One of those now swithering is Dunfermline Athletic chairman John Yorkston.

He told BBC Scotland: "The main factor was what we were led to believe was the police desire on the timing of the game.

"If the police are telling us something different now, or if there is new information, we will bear that in mind."

It is now being suggested that the police did not insist on a specific date but simply asked that the game be played "sooner rather than later".

Partick Thistle vice-chairman Brown McMaster, whose club abstained in the initial vote, and Aberdeen chief executive Keith Wyness, who backed 27 April, said that police advice would be crucial.

If they say the match must be on 27 April in the interests of safety, both will not support Celtic's view but may be inclined to change their decision if the police advice is different.

The SPL, in consultation with the police, had decided in 1999 that, following crowd trouble, a championship decider between Celtic and Rangers should be avoided in the future.

It went for 27 April this year as this is the only date when it would not be possible for Rangers, who lead the table by eight points, to clinch the title.

If the match is re-arranged, it is likely to be played on 4 or 11 May, although the first of those dates is on a Bank Holiday weekend, when police prefer to avoid sensitive fixtures that could be ignited by extra drinking time.

Celtic manager Martin O'Neill, whose side have two games in hand over Rangers, does not expect the SPL to accept such a "climbdown".

Original vote on playing the Old Firm game on 27 April:

For: Aberdeen, Dunfermline Athletic, Hearts, Hibernian, Motherwell, Rangers.

Against: Celtic, Kilmarnock, Livingston.

Abstained: Dundee United, Partick Thistle.

Did not vote: Dundee.

Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston
"We voted based on advice from the police"

Partick Thistle vice-chair Brown McMaster
"I don't think anyone believes that 27 April is fair"


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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