SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster addresses strange Hearts vs Celtic time slot

By David Walton

June 16, 2021

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster has addressed the strange Hearts vs Celtic time slot on the opening round of Premiership fixtures.

The Ange Postecoglou era will kick off its domestic campaign with a tricky-looking trip to Tynecastle. And to add an extra layer of intrigue, the game will kickoff at 8pm with Sky Sports screening the match live on July 31st.

Late-night domestic fixtures are a common occurrence throughout the season. However, they generally take place in midweek, with Saturday night football seldom seen in Scotland.

And SPFL Chief Doncaster has addressed why the decision was made as he admitted that it lilely won’t be a regularly used slot.

As quoted by the Daily Record, Doncaster said: “I wouldn’t have thought it would become a regular slot. It’s because you’ve got the English Premier League starting a few weeks later and that’s what’s available.

An exciting seven days for Celtic fans is about to get underway

“It certainly won’t be the last time it’s used but I don’t see it being a regular one. I wouldn’t want to make any predictions about (an Old Firm game at that time).

“That would be down to the broadcaster and the Police.”

Neil Doncaster clearly open to late-night Saturday slots; Hearts vs Celtic set to be a cracker

Yes there will be limited fan capacity, but who knows how many we’ll be able to get into Tynecastle on July 31st. Given we’ll have made further progress in the fight against Covid, it could be that there will indeed be a strong atmosphere in Gorgie.

That would be ideal. There’s something about this fixture that just screams marketable for the Premiership. Hearts vs Celtic, matchday 1, 8pm. It’s a superb set-up, and if we can get bums on seats in the stadium, it’ll make for an incredible atmosphere.

I’m all for Saturday night football on a more regular basis if it’s possible. It’s a much more exciting and intriguing watch than 12:30pm Sunday afternoon games. There’s something about the nighttime games that just makes the atmosphere all the more bitter.

Tynecastle Stadium (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Of course, fan trouble has led to this being a strong concern for police in the past. It’s unlikely they’ve changed their own stance on Saturday night games too much. It’s likely seen that, if they can be avoided, then they should be.

Doncaster’s admittance that this won’t be a regular occurrence is almost an acceptance of that. It’s clear the SPFL themselves don’t have any issue with it however. Anything to make the games more marketable from their perspective.

Hopefully, the Premiership opener in Edinburgh proves to be a superb advert for 8pm Saturday night games. If they could return on a more permanent basis, it’ll certainly make for more interesting TV.

In other news, what Erik Sviatchenko said in 2018 about returning to Celtic.