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Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 11:18 UK

Rangers call for end of Scottish Premier League split

Dundee United midfielder Prince Buaben and Rangers striker Kenny Miller
Rangers will have played three league games at Tannadice by the season's end

Rangers have called for the Scottish Premier League's controversial split to be scrapped after being handed three away fixtures in a row.

The SPL table started dividing into two sections of six for the final five games back in 2001 and this season's split has angered some clubs.

Motherwell have mounted a protest while St Mirren say their schedule is unfair.

Now leaders Rangers have claimed there is a "lack of sporting integrity" when it comes to arranging the matches.

The Ibrox side are 13 points ahead of Glasgow rivals Celtic and on the brink of retaining their title.

But that has not prevented them entering the debate over the final five league fixtures.

It is certainly our understanding that clubs are never forced to play three away games in a row before the split

Rangers chief executive Martin Bain

Those were announced on Saturday, with the top six playing off for the title and qualification for the Champions League and Europa League, while the bottom six fight it out to avoid relegation.

Motherwell said on Monday that they plan to challenge their fixtures as they are unhappy at having to play a third fixture of the season away to Celtic.

St Mirren are angry at having to face a third trip of the season away to relegation rivals Falkirk.

The SPL has responded by saying that there was no mathematical way of ensuring that every side played 19 home and 19 away fixtures because of who had qualified in each half of the league.

But Rangers are also unhappy and chief executive Martin Bain told his club website: "We are obviously pleased to be in a good position in the SPL going into the post-split fixtures.

"However, we have not won anything yet and we feel that the way the games have been scheduled places us at a competitive disadvantage.

"We find it very disappointing and surprising that we have been asked to play three consecutive away matches in the space of 10 days at such a crucial stage of the season."

Rangers will visit Hibernian, Dundee United and Celtic - something Rangers say "flies in the face" of one of the main priorities of the SPL fixtures working group.

"We know we have work to do in our efforts to win the championship, but it is maybe just as well we have a good lead given the schedule we are faced with," said Bain.

"It is certainly our understanding that clubs are never forced to play three away games in a row before the split, so we don't know why we are being asked to do so now."

MY SPORT: DEBATE

Manager Walter Smith said: "The only problem I've got with the split is that we have been given three away games in a row.

"It's an impossible circumstance the League are in but it's strange that we have been given three away games when, to my knowledge, they have stated that would never happen to any club."

There have been a number of calls this season from managers in for the league to be expanded to include more clubs and Smith repeated his desire for an 18-club league on Tuesday.

And Bain pointed out that the present system leads to unfairness.

"Having played Dundee United twice at Tannadice, for example, in order to balance home and away fixtures, we are having to travel to Tannadice for a third time," he continued.

"There are a number of anomalies that the post-split fixtures have thrown up this season and this highlights the unsatisfactory situation that currently exists with a 12-team league and a split after 33 games - and outside influences seem to be becoming major factors in determining these.

"The SPL have said that the police did not want the final Old Firm game of the season to be decisive and therefore did not want it scheduled for fixture 34 or 35.

"They have also said that they did not want the game on the weekend of 1/2 May as this is a bank holiday weekend, but what difference does it make when the match is invariably played at 12.30pm?

"The other aspect is that Celtic are not being asked to go and play on the difficult surface at Fir Park when they have only played there once this season. Does that equate to sporting integrity?

"I think the time has come for a more considered debate on a better structure that removes the split completely."



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see also
Split provides thrills - Houston
13 Apr 10 |  Dundee Utd
Motherwell challenge SPL fixtures
12 Apr 10 |  Motherwell
SPL announces post-split fixtures
10 Apr 10 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers boss favours 18-team SPL
05 Mar 10 |  Rangers


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