OLD Firm football fans face a series of away matches at the beginning of next season after a warning that Celtic and Rangers won't be able to play at home because of the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Charter stipulates that no other major sporting events can take place in any city hosting an Olympic event for the period of the Games.

With the National Stadium at Hampden hosting five women’s and three men’s matches between July 25 and August 12, no fixtures could take place at Ibrox or Celtic Park during that time.

Loading article content

It would also affect European ties and any friendly international matches.

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, a former sports minister, has now warned that football authorities may have to take legal action if they want the rule overturned.

He has raised the issue with Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster and British Olympic Association (BOA) chief executive Andy Hunt.

He is also writing to UEFA because he says it could “seriously impact on Scottish participation in continental competition next year”.

The SPL season has started between July 25 and August 12 every season for eight of the last 10 years and Champions’ League and Europa League qualifying will be under way during that period next year.

This season, which kicked off on Saturday, started early to allow teams in Europe more time to reach match fitness.

Mr Maxwell said: “Supporters of all clubs were excited and ambitious over the weekend as the new football season got under way and excitement is also building ahead of the Olympics next year, but questions still remain on what will happen when the two clash in 2012.

“Despite this issue being raised several months ago, supporters are still unclear as to what affect Olympic competition will have on their clubs and the British Olympic Association need to clarify immediately what their position is on other sporting events taking place during the period of the 2012 Olympics.

“It is not just Glasgow teams that would be affected. Manchester, Newcastle, London and Cardiff may also have teams competing in Europe next year.

“I don’t think fans from any team will be happy about having to travel to another city to watch their team compete in premier European competitions.”

Mr Maxwell said London 2012 chairman Lord Coe’s view that clubs could play their European tie away during the period would not work as both the home and away ties could fall the period of the Games.

The SPL said matches would not be “fixed towards the end of this year”, adding: “If the British Olympic Association has any concerns regarding fixture scheduling these should be discussed with the SPL.”