REMEMBER when Chris Sutton was barred from performing his BT Sport duties at Ibrox over safety concerns? That was one, high-profile figure. A man who would have been surrounded by colleagues, in an enclosed part of the stadium, and whose profile means that any jeopardising of his safety would be glaringly obvious to any of the police and security personnel on duty. 

The decision was apparently reached on the basis that the baying mob would react like a pack of leopards if Danger Mouse were to be sent scuttling through their pen. This was the Rangers position with regards to safety: either it is guaranteed, or entry is refused. It had nothing to do with being offended by anything the routinely outspoken former Celtic striker had to say, right?

The Herald: Chris Sutton on media duties at IbroxChris Sutton on media duties at Ibrox (Image: SNS)

The problem is in a bloated game of second-guessing like the one we enter for the “we-don’t-want-your-kind-in-our-ground” stand-off with Celtic, finding a resolution becomes increasingly difficult. Neither side wants to give an inch, and before you know it they’re eight feet deep in trenches with their pledging supporters, while Scottish football’s many other stakeholders are left out in no-man’s land.

Reportedly seven hundred tickets have been offered to visiting supporters for the first Old Firm derby of the coming season at Ibrox on September 3. This olive branch seemingly intended to break the deadlock on away section lockdowns at the two Glasgow clubs' grounds on derby day resembles more a barren, blunt baton. Celtic refused the offer for the post-split derby at Ibrox on April 8 this year over, you guessed it, security concerns, and it remains to be seen whether they will do so again for the clash at the first furlong of the next campaign.

READ MORE: O'Riley reveals 'refreshing' change at Celtic under Rodgers

The Herald: Celtic supporters at a league match at Ibrox in JanuaryCeltic supporters at a league match at Ibrox in January (Image: SNS)

Should they refuse, it is likely we will enter a season of no away allocations for the four league derbies that drive up the premiums on Sky TV’s sports packages across the country. It is understood that these concerns have not as yet been raised at SPFL board level. Having just signed a fresh five-year deal with the league’s main broadcaster, it remains to be seen whether executives at the media giants who hold multi-billion-pound stakes in the English Premier League will remain happy with the reduced spectacle their coverage undoubtedly suffers as a result of this stand-off.

While the new Rangers chief executive James Bisgrove raised hopes of a resolution between the two clubs in May when he revealed that talks had opened with Celtic counterpart Michael Nicholson over away-day allocations, his refrain of no return to previous levels and there being “a long way to go” before any meaningful resolution can be met appears to have doused those faint glimmers of hope before they even had a chance to ignite. The Govan club have reportedly sold 45,000 season tickets for the coming campaign and there is almost universal resistance from fans of the Ibrox club to the idea of housing their rival rank-and-file in would-be Rangers seats. The feeling across the city appears to be mutual.

The Herald: Rangers CEO James BisgroveRangers CEO James Bisgrove (Image: SNS)

It seems almost a foregone conclusion that the days of Celtic Airbnb-ing the entire Broomloan Stand are over. But surely a resolution whereby a significant away support can be safely accommodated is achievable? If the argument is that season tickets guarantee the two league derby fixtures each term, why are Rangers and Celtic so willing to sell bumper packages for UEFA competition fixtures outside the season ticket remit? Well, the UEFA rules on away-ticket allocation, for a start, plays a significant role. With a minimum of five per cent of capacity offered to visiting sides in European competition a prerequisite for all clubs, there is little argument when Liverpool or Real Madrid descend on Glasgow with thousands of fervent supporters occupying otherwise home sections of Ibrox and Celtic Park.

The Herald: The Liverpool section at last season's Champions League clash at IbroxThe Liverpool section at last season's Champions League clash at Ibrox (Image: SNS)

A similar arrangement could surely be adopted for the four league derbies in the Premiership calendar. Some might call foul on the clubs profiteering when briefs are already cutting deeply into supporters’ pockets during a cost-of-living crisis, but there is an inevitable supply-and-demand element to this. Both clubs already have packages in place which preclude Old Firm fixtures, such as some concession season tickets and half-season offerings. Putting a bounty on a selection of premium briefs for derby day makes sense in a practical and business sense, at the same time as improving the spectacle for those also paying to watch the match in venues and living rooms around the world.

This latter point may seem moot for the two clubs with regards to punters passing through their gates on a weekly basis, but TV money and growing their audience and fan base is a significant priority within their respective business models. This is why the SPFL’s Switzerland-like neutrality on the matter is a touch baffling; again, it is understood that the issue has not reached boardroom level within the SPFL.

READ MORE: Joe Hart reveals Jack Butland dialogue in Celtic vs Rangers 'respect'

The league governing body, of course, is comprised of its member clubs, and it is up to them to agree on rules governing the game. But surely, as the recent report commissioned by five of the SPFL’s members on plans to increase distributable income to Scottish clubs from £28.4m to £50m by 2029 demonstrates, the league has to take a stance on this matter and try to arbitrate a resolution.

It may seem that introducing an away-ticketing rule matching UEFA’s five per cent just for Old Firm matches would be too exclusive a move; however, there is a glaring precedent for this. Given that the fixture system, complete with a split into two sections after 33 rounds of fixtures, ensures four Glasgow derby fixtures during the course of a 38-match season.

The reality is that these fixtures matter to Scottish football. The self-evident truth is that their spectacle has been diminished by this stalemate on away allocations between Celtic and Rangers. And the resolution is staring everyone in the face. It is up to those governing the game in Scotland to bring about a resolution.