Burley gets season put back a week

SPL agree to postpone start of 2009-10 campaign to help Scotland prepare for crucial World Cup qualifier in Norway
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The Independent Online

The Scottish Premier League have agreed to postpone the start of next season by a week to 15 August. The Scottish FA had requested the delay in order to increase preparation time for Scotland's World Cup qualifier in Norway on 12 August.

The SPL wanted the SFA to move the Scottish Cup semi-finals to a midweek date to accommodate the fixture switch. However, the SFA say they will only do so if Scottish teams make good progress in Europe. Scotland's manager, George Burley, had initially asked for the SPL campaign to start a week earlier, leaving the weekend of 8 and 9 August free.

But the SPL were reluctant to make a "false start" to the next campaign and pointed to the number of European ties Scottish clubs could be involved in at that time of the season.

"Facing a late start and early end to the season because of the World Cup, we asked the SFA for a firm commitment to move the Scottish Cup semi-finals to a midweek," an SPL spokes-man said. "This would have provided certainty in giving a clear weekend to play a round of League matches and helped our teams with European commitments. The SFA told us they would meet our request, but subsequently this commitment was withdrawn.

"The SPL board were deeply disappointed at the SFA's unwillingness to provide the commitment sought. But, given the board's wish to meet the Scotland manager's request for a free weekend on 8 August, they decided the season would now start on 15 August.

"Helping the national side was at the forefront of our efforts over the past few days. We worked to find a way of accommodating George's request while managing the issues this creates for us and our clubs. We are disappointed the SFA were not more willing to work with us in assisting the national side."

The SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, explained why the request had been made: "George had made the request on the basis that he felt it was crucial, with such a vital World Cup qualifying match, that there wasn't a fixture weekend just prior to it.

"Regarding the Scottish Cup... we've still to come out with the full details of it, but we've cleared everything with sponsors and television companies, so we can make one weekend available in the later stages of the cup, so that the fixtures can be fitted in."

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