Old Firm title decider should be avoided, says ex-police body chairman

Scott Brown and Alfredo Morelos contest possession in a league match between Celtic and Rangers
The final Old Firm derby of the season has not yet been scheduled

A former police federation chair says a "supercharged" Old Firm match should not be a potential title decider.

Celtic need one more win to clinch the Premiership and are due to face Rangers once more in the league this season.

The Scottish Professional Football League have not yet announced the top-flight's post-split fixtures, which will begin later this month.

"[Police are] concerned with public safety and that will always be paramount," said Les Gray.

"The last few games have been brilliant to watch, a great spectacle and people have behaved themselves so why do we want to endanger that?"

Since crowd troubled marred a match in 1999 in which Rangers won at Celtic Park to secure the Scottish Premier League title, the final Old Firm league derby of any given season has tended to be deliberately scheduled to avoid a potential league decider.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, whose side also face Rangers in Sunday's Scottish semi-final, said after his side's most recent league win: "In probably any other country in the world, they would look to play the game and showcase your football and country on telly - whether it was Real Madrid v Barcelona, Manchester United v Manchester City or AC Milan v Inter.

"But, for some reason, we can't do that here which is a sad indictment of the world that it is here at times."

Gray, a former chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, responded on BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound: "Brendan Rodgers is right up until a point.

"However, let's not kid ourselves on. We all know that these games are supercharged and to make it the deciding game, whether it was 1999 or 1949, the circumstances haven't changed and the police will always have the last say and for good reason.

And he added: "Why take the risk of taking backwards steps when it can be avoided? The game's going to happen, why do you want to supercharge it?"

Gray also praised Rangers and Celtic for the "tremendous work" they have done in addressing issues around the derbies and believes "we have come a long way" since the infamous 1999 match but that the threat of disorder remains, particularly in areas around the venue of the match itself.

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster said producing the post-split fixtures can be "a juggling act trying to satisfy the wishes of all 12 clubs, while also working with Police Scotland and our broadcast partners".

"Over the past 18 years it has created excitement and drama at both ends of the table, pitting teams against their nearest rivals over the final five matches of the season," he added.

"We are in the process of concluding this season's post-split fixture schedule and expect to announce the details shortly."

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