The vast open spaces of unoccupied seats at Hampden on Saturday were a frustration to Celtic fans unable to buy a ticket for the game. So too for the Scottish Professional Football League, who left money on the table in the hope that St Johnstone were able to attract enough fans to fill their allocation.
It was reminiscent of our last League Cup semi-final, against Hibs, two years ago. Hibs were allocated the same slice of Hampden as St Johnstone but left £30 uncollected for every 24” of unoccupied stadium, a painful one for the SPFL and earlier locked out Celtic fans.
For next month’s final, Hibs have been allocated 17, 500 tickets, a significantly higher number than their season ticket count or average gate. Enough, you would think, to satisfy the fans who keep the game afloat in a country where gate money occupies a higher proportion of clubs’ income than anywhere else in Europe.
Hibs want 25,000 tickets, not just because they hope to sell than number, but also for “sporting integrity”, as having more fans attend bestows an advantage. This latter point is true but also a curious hill to fight on.
It is not the allocation that maintains an equitable sporting advantage but the number who attend. If Hibs want to argue this point, they surely must limit Celtic’s ability to sell into their 25,000 ticket stock in equal proportion to the uptake from Hibs fans. 25,000 Celtic fans and 15,000 Hibs fans still gives Celtic an advantage.
Football clubs often play to the gallery, something I have urged Celtic to do more of in the past. This ticket protest from Hibs has a touch of this flavour to it. Angry from Easter Road writes to complain because it is costless to do so, the suits at the SPFL are targeted as pantomime villains.
It is a disingenuous attack, but are they really going to say, “Thank you to the Celtic fans who will again pay crucial money into the Scottish game”? Thanks too to League Cup sponsors cinch (sic.), and best of luck getting in enforcing the branding rights you have paid for.
Loved the Celtic Christmas ad, which is an established treat. It speaks of a club with confidence in itself.