Football: Sunday kick-offs infuriate Scots

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The Independent Online
THE SCOTTISH Premier League are preparing themselves for a barrage of criticism after the entire programme for the last day of the season was switched to Sunday, 23 May.

All five matches will kick-off at 6.05pm, with Sky TV yet to decide which one they will screen live.

With the title and relegation situations building up to a dramatic conclusion, the SPL had no alternative other than to order the clubs to change en masse, handing Celtic a Sunday evening trip to Tannadice to play Dundee United and relegation-threatened Hearts face a trek north to face Aberdeen. It also means that Rangers, who entertain Kilmarnock at Ibrox on the final evening, will now play seven of their last eight games of the season on Sunday nights.

"As has happened in England in recent years, the fixtures on the last day of the season will be played on a Sunday," said an SPL spokesman. "This was agreed by all the SPL clubs during negotiations of the Sky contract. It is of course crucial that all the games are played simultaneously on the last day of the season in order to ensure that no club is given an unfair advantage by playing later."

With the English FA Cup final at Wembley on the Saturday, a TV showing of the final game of the season on that day was not possible, hence the Sunday starts.

No explanation has been put forward by either the SPL or Sky for the reason for the 6.05pm kick-off, although Nationwide League play-off matches have been scheduled for that weekend.

The situation has angered supporters in Scotland. "Sunday evening games are something that has been the subject of discussion between ourselves and Rangers for some time," said John McMillan, secretary of the Rangers' Supporters' Association.

"In fairness, I think the clubs now realise it was a mistake and they are looking at ways and means of trying to change the kick-off times. But that is not going to be easy because of Sky TV's various contracts.

"We have supporters who travel long distances to watch their side. These fans are being denied the chance to watch Rangers, as are the ones who are not members of supporters' associations because, at that time of night, public transport is almost non-existent."