Caley Jags Together have, today, sent the following letter to SPFL Secretary, Iain Blair.
Date : 13th November 2013
The choice of venue, in Edinburgh, for the second year in a row is tantamount to awarding Hearts home advantage in the tie. Notwithstanding that we consented to a Saturday at 15:00 fixture in the corresponding day last year, It is beyond reasonable interpretation to define a ground as neutral less than ten miles from Hearts ground, in the same city, and over one hundred and fifty miles from the other clubs ground. Neil Doncaster’s recent quote regarding the criteria for neutrality in the Ramsden’s Cup Final at the same venue appears to give credence to this . Why is the position different in Inverness’s case? This choice gives Hearts an unfair competitive advantage in the tie, as it guarantees them a vastly larger support on the day. Why was no consideration given to a venue outside of Edinburgh, namely at either Dundee United or Aberdeen? Both of these venues would have been more suitable and still involved a great deal less effort and risk on the part of Hearts fans to attend than those from Inverness. Both venues would avoid the extra fifty miles through Fife and a congested journey through Edinburgh for our support (Dundee is 116 miles, Aberdeen 108 and Edinburgh 158)
The date of 2nd of February and the choice of a 12:15 kick off makes the potentially difficult problem of getting down the A9 in winter conditions liable to simply compound the above, and will further erode our potential support. We cannot predict weather conditions, but February is the most likely month to see extreme winter weather in the Highlands. First Scotrail and Citylink/ Megabus assure us that there is no provision at this time for public transport that will get Inverness Caledonian Thistle fans to Edinburgh on time for this fixture. Megabus have one coach leaving Inverness at 06:50 on Sundays, but timetables are not available beyond 05.01.14 at present. This effectively forces those fans who have access to private transport onto the A9 as early as 07:00 – the coldest and most potentially icy part of the day. Hearts fans, on the other hand, will face a local bus journey or can simply walk to Easter Road. Can you confirm that safety considerations been considered with regard to this, or have they been simply jettisoned in the face of television and gate revenues? Were transport companies consulted about the availability of transport from Inverness? Have you sought the opinion of the Police Service for Scotland on this? Have you consulted directly with any fans representative groups? Have you sought the opinion of Transport Scotland?
At least, as with last year’s semi-final a 15:00 kick off would have allowed time for our fans to get to Edinburgh. The 12:15 kick off appears to be dictated by the fact that BBC Scotland will also be transmitting the RBS six nations tie between Ireland and Scotland at 15:00. This simply means that, yet again our fans are suffering to expedite BBC Scotland’s ratings for a sport that we neither represent or follow, when we should be showcasing a national football cup semi-final. Again coming back to the Ramsden’s cup solution, a later kick off time and broadcasting on an alternative BBC platform would have lessened this problem. Broadcasting from what will undoubtedly be a half empty Easter Road will do nothing for the image of the game in Scotland. Could you tell us why the SPFL has effectively colluded with the BBC on this to the detriment of football?