London Hearts Supporters Club

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Craig Levein <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> John Rowbotham
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Craig: We are slaves to TV


HEARTS boss Craig Levein today expressed his disappointment at seeing the Edinburgh derby switched from New Year’s Day to January 2 - but insisted the clubs were "slaves" to television.

Both sets of supporters were delighted when the original SPL fixture list threw up the first January 1 showdown at Easter Road for seven years.

However, they were left furious after satellite TV company Setanta’s decision to move the game back 24 hours, the game now going ahead on the Sunday at 2pm.

Levein, while admitting he felt for the fans, insisted that clubs are helpless in such situations.

"We are basically slaves to TV these days," he said.

"I prefer the traditional New Year’s Day derby and always have done. But if the clubs take the money then we have to go along with their way of doing things.

"I can understand the fans’ frustrations as it is one of the most attractive fixtures on the calendar but there’s not a lot we can really do about it."

But Hibs managing director Rod Petrie, who had lobbied hard for the return of the New Year’s Day clash, insisted the 24-hour delay wouldn’t diminish the occasion - pointing out that as January 1 is a Saturday, the holiday weekend would, in fact, stretch to the Wednesday morning.

While voicing his preference for the "traditional" New Year’s Day, Petrie said: "The reality is that’s the nature of the broadcasting agreement entered into by all clubs. There’s nothing we can do about it. Setanta have made a good start to broadcasting Premierleague matches and the Edinburgh derby will, in fact, take centre stage in football.

"The match is one of those exciting fixtures everyone is looking forward to and the fact it has been moved by a day hopefully won’t diminish the occasion and spectacle. It is still very much part of the New Year festivities and I am sure both sets of supporters will want to turn up in numbers to create an unforgettable atmosphere.

"The fact New Year’s Day falls on a Saturday means Monday and Tuesday will still be holidays and the fixture falls in the middle of the festivities. The fact the announcement has been made now, some three months in advance, should give people plenty of time to make arrangements."

Frank Dougan, treasurer of the 3000-strong Hibs Supporters Association, said: "It’s a disgrace.

"It’s another footballing tradition which is disappearing.

"Everyone looks forward to a New Year’s Day derby, not least the fans who have returned from all parts of the world to be with their families and take the opportunity to watch their club in action in what is the biggest game of the season."

Martin Laidlaw, of Save our Hearts, said: "It is outrageous. Hearts and Hibs fans were excited about the New Year derby. The excitement has been taken away from us."

Taken from the Scotsman

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