• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Spiers on Sport: who's right, who's wrong, in this Ibrox tickets mess?

With the possible exception of Mark Hateley, who havers that everything is "just the luck of the draw", most agree that Rangers have an unfair advantage in their looming Scottish Cup semi-final at Ibrox against Dundee United.

Ibrox, a "neutral" venue? This is a botch, born of the unavailability of Hampden Park due to the Commonwealth Games, which the SFA has failed to handle.

Why, in their haste, the SFA decided as far back as October that Ibrox must be the Scottish Cup semi-final venue, without knowing who would be in the last four, remains a mystery.

Even George Peat, a former SFA president, has gone on record as saying the SFA's thought-process on it has left him baffled.

In an ideal world, this cup semi-final would be played at Celtic Park, with a 50/50 split of tickets. But in Scottish football we are long past idealism.

Ibrox has a capacity of 51,000. Dundee United are unlikely to be able to shift 25,000 tickets for the match. So the Tannadice club, amid its warring with the SFA, will have to settle for around half of that and get on with it.

This fixture is one to relish yet most are left with a feeling of dissatisfaction at the right royal mess surrounding it. Well, it is done now. And the rightful, widespread public sympathy for Dundee United's plight cannot go wholly unchallenged.

Rangers have a season-ticket fanbase of around 43,000…do they not have rights, too? Do these supporters, who turn up week in, week out to watch their team, not have a greater right to a cup ticket than those Dundee United "fans" who are dragged out once a year for the big occasion?

In fact, at Ibrox on April 12, Dundee United will probably have in the region of 12,000 backing their team. Amid all the acrimony and fall-out, this is still pretty decent. It is significantly more, for instance, than Celtic are allowed to bring to Govan for an Old Firm clash.

Meanwhile, Stephen Thompson, the Dundee United chairman, has kept up his vital role in recent days of being the devil incarnate in the eyes of many Rangers fans.

Thompson has a pleasing knack of having plenty to say for himself and his club, usually in the name of defending Dundee United, or sometimes in seeking to query the wider instincts of Scottish football.

When the old Rangers were facing liquidation in 2012, and then a possible new journey from the bottom of the football heap, Thompson had plenty to say on the subject. Then came the Rangers boycott of Tannadice last year, when he again roused the United fans to action.

In recent days, Thompson has made provocative comments about not feeling safe at Ibrox, and of how he intends to sit among the United faithful at next month's cup clash.

Thompson may lack some of the softly-softly approach of his father, Eddie, but he stoutly stands by his club. He has also, it must be said, in the face of ferocious cuts, made quite a success of Dundee United in his five years in charge.

He is not everyone's cup of tea, because he exhibits a certain cynicism towards the Glasgow giants, and can be inflammatory and even rabble-rousing. But the fact is, if you are a Dundee United fan, you won't mind Stephen Thompson in the slightest.

When all these arguments are spouted back and forth, there is still a mouth-watering football match to savour. This Rangers-Dundee United cup tie can rightly claim to be the game of the season in Scotland.

United are riding high in the Premiership, currently fourth. Rangers are steadily climbing through the tiers, with what is in effect a Premiership-style team and squad under Ally McCoist.

United, arguably, have the more skilful players, but Rangers retain degrees of their old character, and will have the decided advantage of playing at home. To most it seems a close call, and a dramatic game in prospect.

With a live TV audience watching across Britain, and an Ibrox bulging with the vivid colours of both teams, the irony is that this cup semi-final, for all its wretched birth pangs, has the potential to be quite an advert for Scottish football.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

220502