SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster last night insisted the governing body were powerless to ease Celtic’s hectic schedule ahead of their final Champions League group game against Anderlecht earlier this month.

Celtic captain Scott Brown criticised the SPFL before the vital meeting with the Belgian champions in Glasgow last week due to the fact his club had to play Motherwell three times in just six days in the build-up to it.

The Scotland midfielder and his team mates needed to avoid losing their last Group B match by three goals in order to finish third in their section and qualify for the last 32 of the Europa League.

Brendan Rodgers’s side ended up being defeated 1-0 by Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s team and progressing and will now face Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia in February.

However, Brown was unhappy that Celtic had to play Motherwell in the Betfred Cup final at Hampden on Sunday, a Ladbrokes Premiership game at Fir Park on the Wednesday night and a league match at Parkhead on the Saturday before it.

But Doncaster, speaking as the SPFL Trust launched a Festive Friends initiative in Kilmarnock yesterday, stressed there was little his organisation could have done to remedy the situation.

"I think it is important to sit down and look at why those three games happened,” he said. “One was a league game, one was a re-arranged league game and one was a cup final.

"There was relatively little we could do to avoid instances from happening like that from time to time. We already have a very congested fixture schedule.

"The SPFL have a fairly limited control over the dates, particularly the dates that are given to us by UEFA. We have to try and make the best of the dates within our very congested calendar.”

The SPL postponed a Rangers league game against Gretna back in 2007 in order to help the Ibrox club prepare for their final Champions League group game against Lyon at home.

Doncaster insisted that his organisation would have considered a request from Celtic to move their match against Motherwell if one had been received.

But he added: "If you were to look at the fixture calendar then you wold have been fairly hard pushed to identify a date that the match could have been relocated without going into the winter break.

"We already have a hugely contested calendar post-Christmas with the Scottish cup games and matches in Europe and factoring in cup replays and postponements.

"We need to get games before the split. Those are things that we can do nothing about. We have a crammed fixture list and whilst we have that congestion there is very limited scope to shift games around.

"Clearly if clubs ever make applications to us to relocate games then we can have a look at it. I suspect that in most cases when clubs don't make those applications it is because they have gone through the fixture calendar and they can't identify a suitable date or space to play a match. It is a lot more difficult than it might appear.”

Meanwhile, Doncaster has warned UEFA to guard against the Champions League becoming too predictable and ensure clubs from smaller footballing countries like Scotland aren't left behind by those from larger and richer nations.

None of the five clubs to qualify for the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition via the “champions route” this season progressed to the last 16 and Celtic were the only club to make it into the last 32 of the Europa League. The other four all finished bottom of their section.

"There is a continuing concern about polarisation of finance within the game,” said Doncaster. "You are seeing the big five league in Europe move further ahead of the rest and you are getting results in the Champions League which suggest that there is an issue with how the spoils are divvied up between the clubs.

"Ultimately, football has to be about games where you don't know the outcome in advance. As soon as you do then that ends the game. We are moving increasingly to a situation where games and groups feel more predictable.

"That is a worry and I sincerely hope that those involved in the discussions recognise that we have to have an element of unpredictability in group stage games

"It is vital that Scotland retains the champions path and we are delighted that has paid dividends up until season 2020/21.

"I think the polarisation would have been greater had we not retained that path and what is important now is that we don't allow the have's in European football to stretch further away from the rest."

He added: "It is a free market and we are not talking about how to spend money here and clubs should make up their own decisions about what they spend within their means.

"We are talking about is the prize money and the money that they are given by UEFA for participating in those games.

That decision is crucial as there are huge amounts of broadcast money coming into UEFA and it is how those funds are distributed which is the main issue.

"We need to narrow the financial gap between the have's and have-nots. The more unpredictability we have the better, the less then the worse it is for the sport.

"That makes it a better spectator sport and viewing experience which is what the broadcaster wants as they are supplying the bulk of the prize money.

"I am optimistic that it can be done as it does not serve anyone least of all UEFA if people are turning off because games are too predictable.

"It is in the interest of everyone - fans, clubs, leagues and associations - for there to be unpredictability and a fairer distribution of resources."