Hearts consider playing league game in Australia

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Hearts, of the Scottish Premier League, will stretch the concept of the travelling fan to its limit if a proposed "home" league game against Celtic in Australia comes to fruition next season. August or January have been pencilled in as possible months for the occasion.

Like many clubs north of the border, the Edinburgh side are facing financial hardship. They are planning to sell their Tynecastle ground to offset their £18m debts. Home games will be played elsewhere, mostly at nearby Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby union. But going Down Under for a match, it seems, might also help to prevent Hearts going down the pan.

"The chance to go to Australia presents us with an opportunity to widen the awareness of Hearts and market our brand in a new area of the world," a club spokesman said. "While Celtic are to consider the proposal, they have, as of yet, not agreed to the switch.

In addition, the SPL will require to change certain rules in order to smooth the way to a potentially historic encounter. An SPL spokesman said the league was keeping an open mind on the plans.

The Celtic chief executive, Peter Lawwell, said his club would consider the proposal but added that Martin O'Neill, the club's manager, would need to be consulted first.

"It is still very, very early for us to consider it further," Lawwell said. "We've not even spoken about it internally yet, but I will have to talk to Martin about it. There are a lot of hurdles. We will consider it like everything else. But this is very early and I'm surprised it's come out."

The idea was first mooted by a Melbourne-based firm, Tribal Sports Management. "[SPL teams] play a pretty intense brand of football," Lou Sticca, the company's managing director, said. "I believe it is the sort of fixture the Australian public would respond to."