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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 6, 2008

Rangers fail to get Scots season extended

The Scottish Premier League have ruled out extending the SPL season beyond May 22 - and the Scottish Cup final will also go ahead as scheduled on May 24.

Rangers had called for the SPL to allow them to postpone Saturday's match against Dundee United, to allow Walter Smith's side extra time to prepare for next week's UEFA Cup final.

That could have led to the final round of SPL games being played on the date designated for the Scottish Cup showpiece between Rangers and Queen of the South, and the Hampden clash being postponed until a later date.

There now seems little chance of the United game being moved back, as Rangers have a hectic run of games to come before the end of the season.

SPL and Scottish Football Association officials met this morning but could not find a viable way to alter the fixture programme.

Rangers take on Motherwell at Ibrox tomorrow, then welcome United to Govan in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League on Saturday - four days before their European final against Zenit St Petersburg at the City of Manchester Stadium.

After Rangers' goalless draw against Hibernian at Easter Road two days ago, which began a run of eight games in 21 days for the Glasgow club, manager Walter Smith criticised the SPL for not offering the quadruple hopefuls any help to prepare for their first European final in 36 years.

Today, SPL executive chairman Lex Gold said: 'The SFA indicated late yesterday that they wished to discuss whether there was any help they could provide.

'We met this morning to explore the available options, including a review of the Scottish Cup final date.

'The meeting took place in a constructive atmosphere. But no viable alternatives to the fixture list issued on April 22 emerged that did not place the integrity of the SPL competition at risk.

'Given the stage we have now reached in our competition, both in terms of the title chase and in relation to the European places, it is not possible to modify the closing date of the season without placing at serious risk the fairness to all of our competition.

'The season will end on Thursday, May 22.'

Rangers manager Smith gave his initial reaction to the decision at a lunchtime press conference.

'That's it, we'll play (on Saturday),' he said.

'I think everyone knows how we feel about it, but we will play.

'We had it in our minds that we were down to play. I have said enough over the last couple of weeks.'

The May 22 date was announced as the date for the SPL season to finish last month, with the league agreeing to move back the final round of top-six fixtures by four days to allow Rangers to fulfil all their games.

Zenit have had three matches postponed to give them almost two weeks to prepare for the European final in Manchester.

However Scottish football chiefs could not be seen to allow Rangers any advantage over domestic opponents, with the decision to extend the league season to May 22 having already being criticised by Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell.

SFA president George Peat had earlier expressed his desire to pave the way for the country's football authorities to help Rangers.

He had told the Daily Record: 'We should be trying everything in our power to help a Scottish club win in Europe.

'The Dundee United match can be moved and should be moved.

'The SPL have to tell the SFA when they will finish their season and we agree to that so we can then agree to another extension.'

However Peat could not force through changes and SFA chief executive Gordon Smith explained it had been impractical to rearrange games at this late stage.

Smith said: 'We met today with the SPL to see if there was any way in which the Scottish FA could help out with the current situation regarding fixture congestion.

'A range of options and issues were explored, including the date of the Scottish Cup final.

'Even allowing for the significant difficulties involved in moving the cup final, it was an option that was discussed.

'However, it was felt that, at this late stage, it was not a viable move as it would not open up any room for change in the SPL programme.

'Consequently, the match between Queen of the South and Rangers will go ahead, as planned, on Saturday, May 24.'

Queen of the South, who will be Rangers' opponents in the Scottish Cup final, had opposed the idea of shifting the date of the Hampden showpiece.

'It's totally unacceptable to Queen of the South for this game to be moved,' Queens chairman David Rae told Sky Sports News while talks involving the SPL and SFA went ahead in the morning.

'I can't see how they can possibly move the Scottish Cup final day.'

Rae cited the fact that buses had been booked and some fans had made plans to travel from as far away as Australia to attend the game.

After this week's games against Motherwell and United, Rangers travel to Manchester for their date with Zenit and return to face Motherwell again on Saturday, May 17.

They then must face St Mirren two days later, on a Monday evening, before finishing their league season at Aberdeen on the Thursday of the same week, two days prior to the Scottish Cup final.

Rangers manager Smith gave his initial reaction to the decision at a lunchtime press conference.

'That's it, we'll play (on Saturday),' he said.

'I think everyone knows how we feel about it, but we will play.'

Scottish football chiefs could not allow Rangers any advantage over domestic opponents, with the decision to extend the league season to May 22 having already being criticised by Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell.

SPL executive chairman Lex Gold said: 'The SFA indicated late yesterday that they wished to discuss whether there was any help they could provide.

'We met this morning to explore the available options, including a review of the Scottish Cup final date.

'The meeting took place in a constructive atmosphere. But no viable alternatives to the fixture list issued on April 22 emerged that did not place the integrity of the SPL competition at risk.

'Given the stage we have now reached in our competition, both in terms of the title chase and in relation to the European places, it is not possible to modify the closing date of the season without placing at serious risk the fairness to all of our competition.

'The (SPL) season will end on Thursday, May 22.'

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith explained it had been impractical to rearrange games at this late stage.

Smith said: 'A range of options and issues were explored, including the date of the Scottish Cup final.

'Even allowing for the significant difficulties involved in moving the cup final, it was an option that was discussed.

'However, it was felt that, at this late stage, it was not a viable move as it would not open up any room for change in the SPL programme.

'Consequently, the match between Queen of the South and Rangers will go ahead, as planned, on Saturday, May 24.'

Queen of the South chairman David Rae had earlier stressed that from his club's perspective it would be 'totally unacceptable' to move the Scottish Cup final.