HAVE the citizens of Mount Florida been subjected to a media blackout? Has the downturn in business caused by the Covid pandemic closed all of the newsagents in the area? Is the broadband down?

The reason I ask is that it seems to have entirely escaped everyone in the Scottish Football Association’s Hampden headquarters that the rest of the country is in the grips of a cost of living crisis.

Did none of the executives twig when they were sticking the diesel in the Jaguar that it was costing a fair whack more than usual? Because ignorance of the strain being placed on household budgets at the moment can be the only reasonable explanation for the pricing structure of the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

In case you also missed it, the prices for the games between Hearts and Hibernian on the Saturday and Celtic and Rangers on the Sunday have been set at £35 or £25 for adults, with concessions either £15 or £10.

When the draw was made, giving us both an Edinburgh derby and a Glasgow derby, perhaps we should have seen this coming. The SFA, in fairness, have to make money, and these are big ticket games.

It was refreshing though to see both Hearts and Hibs come out and express their frustration with the game’s governing body on behalf of their supporters, and leaving their fans in no doubt whatsoever over who was responsible for wringing every last penny out of them, money many will ill be able to afford in the current climate.

“After receiving the ticket information from the SFA, there were a number of long and strong conversations regarding the price and expense to our supporters,” read a Hibs statement.

“Our concerns were matched by Hearts as we stressed the point of making football affordable for everyone.

“We completely understand how much it costs to be a football supporter and how expensive it is to follow your team up and down the country, especially in the current climate.

“We explained this in detail to the SFA, however, they have not moved on their decision, which is incredibly disappointing and has caused us great frustration.”

Hearts released their own statement in rare solidarity with their city rivals, which read: “After receiving the ticket information from the SFA, there were further conversations regarding the price increase and expense to our supporters. Our concerns were echoed by Hibernian as both clubs stressed that in the current climate we want to make football affordable for everyone.”

“Despite the pricing, we hope to see a sea of maroon at Hampden in what's sure to be a special match.”

It is hard to argue with their points, and not share in their frustration at the intransigence of the SFA when presented with concerns over the strain that such a pricing policy will place on the wallets and purses of fans.

And what makes it all the more disappointing is that after a period of being slammed on their pricing, when columns like this were a weekly occurrence, the penny – and the price – seemed to be dropping with the SFA.

The days of the chief executive being wheeled out to make ludicrous comparisons between Scotland games and David Guetta tickets - as Stewart Regan did in 2014 - seemed to be over, with the pricing for recent Scotland matches far more reasonable than they have been in the past.

That, along with the obvious upturn in fortunes on the pitch from Steve Clarke’s team, have seen the national stadium packed for recent matches.

The play-off against Ukraine – had it gone ahead as scheduled – could have sold out a couple of times over whatever the price, but to the SFA’s credit, they kept the bulk of tickets at the starting point of £20 for adults and just £5 for kids.

When the Ukraine match as postponed, and a friendly against Poland announced in its place, the move to donate £10 from every £25 adult ticket sold to UNICEF was another good move, worthy of huge praise.

The semi-final pricing then not only seems then like a hugely retrograde step, but completely out of kilter with their stance over their pricing policy for the past couple of seasons with the national team.

It therefore looks like the SFA have taken the opportunity to milk the loyalty of club supporters who they know won’t want to miss such an occasion against their fiercest rivals.

Football, as important as it is, always comes a long way behind feeding the kids, heating the house and filling the tank. Normally though, the number of people who would have to sacrifice their day out at the game to do meet those priorities is fewer than it will be at the moment.

When faced with such stark choices, the fear has to be that with the game on BBC Scotland with a 12.15 kick-off, enough folk are put off to lessen what should be a showpiece occasion between the Edinburgh sides with the sight of empty seats.

Who could blame the fans? What is clear is that the finger of blame from both Hearts and Hibs is pointing directly at the SFA, who regrettably seem to have their fingers firmly in their ears.