The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Mid­week in­crease for dread of win­ter

- By Fraser Mackie

THE SPFL will an­nounce an in­crease in the num­ber of un­pop­u­lar mid­week mid-win­ter fix­tures when the full Lad­brokes Premier­ship sched­ule is re­vealed a week on Fri­day.

The mea­sure is forced upon the league be­cause the three-week Jan­uary shut­down has been main­tained and the cam­paign needs to fin­ish ear­lier ahead of the 2018 World Cup fi­nals in Rus­sia.

That means all top-flight clubs re­turn­ing from the win­ter break face a Scot­tish Cup fourth-round tie on the week­end of Jan­uary 20/21 then back-to-back Wed­nes­day matches on Jan­uary 24 and 31.

There will also be full week­end Premier­ship cards on Jan­uary 27 and Fe­bru­ary 3 in a con­gested kick-off to the sec­ond part of the do­mes­tic cam­paign.

Other mid­week dates are slated for Oc­to­ber 25, De­cem­ber 13 and 27, Fe­bru­ary 28 and — af­ter the split — the penul­ti­mate round of games on Wed­nes­day, May 9.

SPFL sec­re­tary Iain Blair said: ‘There sim­ply isn’t the break in the sum­mer for top play­ers th­ese days so we have to break in the win­ter, which we brought in last year. But with the con­trac­tion at the end of the sea­son for a World Cup re­lease pe­riod it does mean we’ve more mid­weeks.

‘You have to fit the games in some­where. So we’ve seven mid­weeks. No one wor­ries about the Christ­mas one, which is pop­u­lar. And the post-split one is in nice weather with end-of-sea­son ex­cite­ment.

‘But there are five other mid­weeks where, in an ideal world, you’d pre­fer not to have them. The ones in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary are more chal­leng­ing.

‘With the po­ten­tial for cup re­plays it can re­ally get con­gested. But that is foot­ball nowa­days.’

Blair will spend the next week bolt­ing down the specifics of the 2017/18 cal­en­dar for all four di­vi­sions, start­ing with open­ing day on Sat­ur­day, Au­gust 5.

The fi­nal SPFL match will be the play-off fi­nal’s sec­ond leg on Sun­day, May 21 — the day af­ter the Scot­tish Cup fi­nal.

There will be three fes­tive rounds of fix­tures on De­cem­ber 23, 27 and 30.

While there will be an Old Firm fix­ture on one of those, it will not be shifted to Hog­manay.

 ??  ?? CON­GES­TION: Blair be­moans need for more mid­week games
CON­GES­TION: Blair be­moans need for more mid­week games

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