Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton doesn’t think that the derby against Rangers next season should be pushed back to allow fans to attend but has also laughed off any suggestion of an SPFL conspiracy to suit the Hoops, writing in his Daily Record column.
Manager Neil Lennon and midfielder Callum McGregor have both spoken in favour of the first meeting between the two clubs potentially being delayed in an effort to see it played with a crowd in attendance rather than behind closed doors.
That first fixture is due to be played at Celtic Park and usually takes place in late August or early September, meaning we could potentially be at a disadvantage next term if two future derbies at Ibrox go ahead in a pro-Rangers environment and the Bhoys are only able to harness the Paradise atmosphere once.
However, Sutton thinks moving the match back would create all sorts of issues, although reckons fan outcry about Lennon’s comments is motivated by fear.
As Glasgow Live reported last week, some supporters were left fuming with the suggestion of a derby delay.
In his Daily Record column, Sutton said of it all: “You can’t start picking and choosing what games are played when and where. There would be outcry among the other clubs. Would Aberdeen want to wait to play Dundee United in front of fans?
“What about if Rangers go to Pittodrie and play behind closed doors but it’s full when Celtic go? Vice versa at Easter Road? You’re opening up a can of worms. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and we just need to make do the best we can until things can go back to normal.
“As usual up here, the mere suggestion of it has Rangers fans screaming conspiracy, but do me a favour. The outcry about Lennon’s suggestion is borne out of fear. Rangers are looking to gain every single advantage they can this coming season – as the pressure is going to be on like never before.”
Sutton’s point about the messiness that a fixture move would create is valid but there is also a reality that the derbies are the biggest drawing events of the Scottish league season.
Undoubtedly fans in attendance make it a grander spectacle and that’s likely of interest to Sky Sports, who have exclusive TV rights from August.
We may not be in a position to be petty about what fixture is played when.
Every decision the SPFL makes about matches in the coming weeks must be about what’s best for the promotion and income of the league.
On the pitch Lennon’s Bhoys will have to turn up regardless.