FOOTBALL authorities are facing renewed calls to reconsider the timings of Old Firm games as tensions mount ahead of the first clash between the teams in nearly three years.

Celtic and Rangers meet in the semi-final of the League Cup at neutral Hampden Stadium on February 1, renewing a rivalry which has been in abeyance, on the pitch at least, since April 2012.

But amid predictions of and preparations for disorder around the Sunday lunchtime kick-off, campaigners and MSPs have again called on public safety rather than broadcasting schedules to be the priority when the two sides meet.

Senior insiders within Police Scotland have also made the call in recent weeks.

Dave Scott, of the anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, previously said the period when the clubs were not playing each other regularly could be used to address issues include timings of matches.

He said: "Ideally you want these matches on a Monday or Tuesday night. People have been to work and need to focus on work the following day rather than having the time for power drinking.

"It may not sit the television companies but timing is an issue."

The imminent clash has also sparked fears of a spike in domestic violence around the game. Since the two teams last met, there have been two academic reports highlighting the correlation between the occurrence of certain football matches and increased reports of domestic abuse.

Dr Damien J. Williams, a lecturer in public health sciences at the university of St Andrews, said his recent report confirmed previous speculation concerning the association between Old Firm matches and reports of domestic violence.

The first game between the pair since the creation of Scotland's single police force, it will also be a major test for the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The law was introduced following an Old Firm game in 2011 but the clubs have been kept apart since the following year when the Ibrox side were liquidated and forced to start again in Scottish football's lower leagues.

Mr Scott added: "You don't want to pre-empt disorder and you can see the half empty stadiums. But history paints a pretty depressing picture.

"This will also be a big test for both the Offensive Behaviour Act and Police Scotland. How do they react to the potential for songs to be heard on television, what is the national approach?"

Over the weekend there were reports Police Scotland would be on high alert surrounding the fixture, with estimates of 1,000 extra officers being deployed.

The force would only say the match would be policed "appropriately" but Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said his members' key concern was the aftermath of the game, adding he was hearing fears of "going back to the dark old days".

It also emerged yesterday that Wetherspoons, the UK's biggest pub chain, would not be screening the game in any of its Glasgow venues over violence fears.

Police Scotland confirmed officers were visiting licensed premises to interview staff over measures in place but said this was normal practice.

SNP MSP Sandra White, a member of the Scottish Parliament's Men's Violence Against Women And Children committee who has been vocal on domestic abuse, said: "Certainly people would be coming from work if it was a weekday match and they wouldn't consume as much alcohol. The timings would possibly be better in that regard and should be considered for future fixtures.

"I'd call for anyone involved to ensure there's no violence. We know from the past that domestic violence does rise in this type of game."

The Scottish Ambulance Service said it had additional resources lined up for the game, adding Old Firm games generated a 20 per cent increase in 999 calls.