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BAKU PITCH: CELTIC SEEK ASSURANCES

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CELTIC were involved in what is being called a pitch battle with Euro rivals Qarabag last night.
The Hoops demanded assurances from the Azerbaijanis over the state of their playing surface after shock news emerged that Wednesday’s game could be in doubt.

Security chief Ronnie Hawthorn was on the spot to provide up-to-date information on the situation from Baku.

Ronny Deila and his squad, with Celtic 1-0 ahead, are set to jet out from Glasgow Airport this afternoon for the second leg clash. However, the SPFL champions were astonished to discover the playing field at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium is in such a state the game could be in jeopardy.

Reports emerged from Baku that over 30 per cent of the National Stadium pitch is completely unplayable having been scorched by extreme weather temperatures.

Other sections are uneven and the company that maintain the pitch have admitted it has NO chance of recovering in time for the midweek encounter.

Qarabag had already thought about moving the game to the Bakcell Arena stadium. However, they were denied permission as countrymen Qabala play a Europa League tie at that venue the following night and UEFA insist clubs must train in the same stadium 24 hours before the match.

Security supremo Hawthorne flew to Baku on Saturday morning and has confirmed the pitch is in a bad way.

A Celtic spokesman said last night: “We are aware of the issue as regards the pitch in Baku. At the moment, we are seeking reassurances over the quality of the surface.”

With a £20million jackpot on the line in the return leg, Celtic must now anxiously await updates on the levels of repair.

UEFA have regulations in place for the cancellation of matches both before the visiting teams depart or if it is called off when they are in the country.

Their Article 11.01 states: “If the home club finds that a match cannot take place, for example because the field is not fit for play, the home club must notify the visiting club and the referee before their departure from home and the UEFA administration at the same time.

“In this case, the match must be played at another venue and/or on another date as decided by the UEFA administration after consultation with the home club (for the venue) and with both clubs (for the date).”

And if UEFA’s refereeing team wait until Celtic arrive in Azerbaijan and then call it off, UEFA state: “If any doubt arises as to the condition of the field of play after the visiting club’s departure from home, the referee decides on the spot whether or not it is fit for play.

“If the referee decides that the match cannot commence, for example because the field is unfit for play, the match must be played either the next day, or on a reserve date or other date set by the UEFA administration.”

It’s not the first time Qarabag have had problems with their pitch. Last year, they had to urgently call in an English turf company in Maryport to sort it out ahead of a Europa League tie with St Etienne.

 
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