CELTIC last night described the SPFL’s decision to order them to play their Betfred Cup semi-final against Hearts at Murrayfield on Sunday, October 28 as ‘irrational and discriminatory’, as manager Brendan Rodgers insisted that the home of Scottish Rugby, where the Edinburgh side played four ‘home’ matches last season, cannot be seen to be a neutral venue.

Having originally been asked to take part in a 7.45pm kick-off in Mount Florida, the Celtic hierarchy reacted with fury last night after being told to kick off at 1.30pm at Murrayfield, with the day’s other semi-final, Rangers versus Aberdeen, staying at Hampden with a 4.30pm kick off. They had argued that a ballot should be held to determine which match moved to Edinburgh, but that request was rebuffed by the SPFL board. Parkhead chief executive Peter Lawwell had recused himself from any part in the final decision, as is custom.

“The SPFL board’s decision not to hold a ballot to decide the venues of the forthcoming semi-final matches is both irrational and discriminatory,” read the statement, about the farce which began when league bosses originally pencilled in the semi-finals for Saturday and Sunday slots at Hampden just days after both teams are in Europa League action. “Celtic recognised there was a genuinely difficult problem to resolve. All we asked for was equity of treatment – in other words, a simple ballot of which game went to which venue, so that all clubs would have a 50-50 chance of playing at Hampden. We understand those bodies consulted, including the police and broadcasters, had no preference whatsoever on which match should take place at each venue.

“The SPFL board have been unable to produce logic or reason for turning down our modest request. Instead, they have arbitrarily decided that a chosen game should stay stay at Hampden and the other should go to Murrayfield. The interests of our club and supporters have been subordinated to a diktat from the SPFL board which is as unfair as it was unnecessary.”

Hearts manager Craig Levein, meanwhile, said last night that he doesn’t understand the fuss over the affair, considering Edinburgh clubs have to travel to Glasgow for every other semi-final or final.

Levein believes that as Hearts and Celtic were the first teams out of the hat, that should mean they are the tie that is moved to an alternative venue such as Murrayfield.

The Tynecastle boss said: “There’s a part of me that says: ‘Hold on a minute – our supporters have to go to Hampden every year, so why can’t Celtic supporters come through to Edinburgh for one year?’

“For me, considering we were the first out of the hat, that makes us the Saturday game. We have to play on the Sunday to suit Celtic, so I think it’s reasonable to expect them to come through.

“Maybe I am being a bit naïve, I just assumed when we came out of the hat first we would be the Saturday game, that’s how I have always seen it, the second game would be the Sunday game.

“So, if one game has to be moved to a different venue I would imagine it’s the game that was meant to be on the Saturday.

“Or, alternatively I would be happy to play Celtic on the Saturday at Hampden if they wanted to do that.

“Also, the police know what they are dealing with, they have held a Hearts-Rangers game at Murrayfield, so I think a Hearts-Celtic game shouldn’t hold any fears.”

Levein doesn’t believe that playing in Edinburgh will give Hearts any advantage, despite playing league games at Murrayfield last season while the Tynecastle Main Stand was redeveloped.

“Hardly any of our boys have played there,” he said. “In total with all the boys we have had 12 games at Murrayfield, Celtic have played eight or nine. There’s no advantage for us playing at Murrayfield.

“Here’s the thing, I really don’t mind. But the two games on the Sunday would have been a disaster, an absolute disaster.

“And how they didn’t recognise that or kept coming up with excuses as to why it should be allowed to go ahead was beyond belief. To say it was the best solution? It patently was not the best solution.

“So, if we end up playing at Hampden or at Murrayfield, as long as we have as many Hearts supporters in the stadium as we can possibly get in, then fine.

“I read a bit where Brendan (Rodgers) said he thought Murrayfield was great. The only thing is I think the lawnmowers are broken there just now.”