IT is difficult to imagine a solution to the Betfred Cup semi-final scheduling that would be more unpopular than the one the SPFL arrived at.
I have spoken to a lot of people since the announcement that the two ties would be played on the one day at Hampden next month, and no-one has had anything positive to say about it.
On the contrary, they have been universally critical.
In my years as a football administrator, I was never in a situation where two of the parties involved in reaching a decision were so outspoken in the wake of its announcement.
Aberdeen said it was ‘appalling’, Hearts said they were ‘astonished’.
No wonder. It was a shocking decision.
Why? Because of all the problems it throws up in terms of travelling, crowd control and policing.
We all will have seen the great scenes in rugby league and cricket when two games involving four different teams are held at the one ground in a celebration of the sport.
I myself have been to ‘Super Day’ in Austria where they played one semi-final at 2pm and the next one came after it at 5pm. It was an enjoyable occasion and I don’t recall there being any trouble.
But – and let’s be very clear here – we are dealing with a very different culture in this case.
We are dealing with four of Scotland’s five top teams, all of whom carry huge travelling supports with them.
And between these travelling supports exist some fairly serious and historic rivalries.
Throwing all four groups together into the one city on the same day looks to me to be a recipe for disaster.
Put it this way. I will be cancelling going out for dinner in Glasgow that night.
Good luck to the police shutting down trouble.
For me, there were three very simple alternatives which should have been pursued to make the best of these exceptional circumstances.
The first was to play both semi-finals on the Sunday, but at different grounds. One at Hampden Park, the other at Murrayfield.
As we heard during the lengthy debate about Hampden’s future as the home of the Scotland national team, the latter is more than fit for purpose. Boasting a capacity of more than 67,000, it is the biggest ground we have and is accessible to all four semi-finalists.
My second option was having both games at Hampden – one on the Saturday, one on the Sunday.
I know Rangers manager Steven Gerrard liked this idea, but I would oppose his thought of the first tie out of the hat being played first.
Instead of Hearts v Celtic, I would have had his team and Aberdeen leading the way.
That’s because while both halves of the Old Firm are involved in Europa League action on the Thursday night before the semis, Rangers are at home (against Spartak Moscow) while Celtic travel away (to RB Leipzig).
If the games were the other way around, Celtic and Hearts would have been the choice for the Saturday.
The third option for me is to play one game on the Sunday, the second on the Monday night. Both at Hampden.
For the life of me, I don’t see why the League could not do this.
Yes, it would mean slightly rearranging the Premiership fixtures, pushing games back 24 hours. But they have the perfect explanation for why these alterations were necessary.
Anything, surely would have been better than the solution arrived at.
What makes things worse is that they are two fantastic looking semi-final ties.
Rangers fans have reason to be optimistic they will get the chance to see Steven Gerrard lead the club to their first Final under his charge.
Aberdeen supporters would love nothing better than to see their team crush that dream.
And the prospect of a Hearts side, flying high in the Premiership, up against a vulnerable-looking Celtic, the holders for the last two years, is also mouthwatering.
What we are now faced with, however, is far from palatable.