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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Old Firm derby should not decide Scottish Premiership title - ex-police chief

Rangers' Jason Cummings, right, and Celtic's Scott Brown.
Rangers' Jason Cummings, right, and Celtic's Scott Brown battle during the last Old Firm derby.

A former chairman of the Scottish Police Federation has told BBC Radio Scotland of the dangers of deciding the Premiership title in the Old Firm derby.

Celtic can secure their seventh consecutive league title with one more victory and will face Rangers again in the post-split fixtures, which will begin the weekend of April 21.

The Scottish Professional Football League has attempted to avoid scheduling the final derby of the season on a date in which either club could win the title since 1999, when Rangers won the league at Celtic Park in a game marred by fan violence.

And Les Gray, who has in the past called for the fixture to be banned because of crowd trouble, said that there is no need to take the risk in scheduling the derby once the campaign resumes.

"[Police are] concerned with public safety and that will always be paramount," Gray said. "The last few games have been brilliant to watch, a great spectacle, and people have behaved themselves, so why do we want to endanger that?"

Celtic, who are 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the table, will face their rivals for the fourth time this season when they meet in the semifinals of the Scottish Cup on Sunday.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said after a 2-1 win against Hamilton Academical on Sunday that he was disappointed the game could not be scheduled as a showcase of Scottish football.

"In probably any other country in the world, they would look to play the game and showcase your football and country on [TV], whether it was Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, Manchester United vs. Manchester City or AC Milan vs. Inter.

"But, for some reason, we can't do that here, which is a sad indictment of the world that it is here at times."

When asked about Rodgers' comments on the "Sportsound" radio show, Gray said Rodgers was missing the point.

"We all know that these games are supercharged and to make it the deciding game, whether it was 1999 or 1949, the circumstances haven't changed and the police will always have the last say and for good reason," Gray said.

"Why take the risk of taking backwards steps when it can be avoided? The game's going to happen. Why do you want to supercharge it?"

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