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Traditional Old Firm derbies continue at New Year

The Scottish Premier League have confirmed that the popular New Year meeting between Celtic and Rangers will remain next season. SPL bosses have also assured the Scottish Football Association that Old Firm derbies will not clash with Scotland games.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's publication of the new season fixtures, SPL secretary Iain Blair said: "A big issue in the past has been the scheduling of the Old Firm derbies.

"Hopefully the guys at the Scottish FA will appreciate that there won't be an Old Firm derby either before or after any of the international dates next season.

"The Old Firm fans should look forward to another New Year derby though - we reintroduced them last year and this was popular.

"In fact, all the local derbies will take place on the New Year card. This has the added benefit of minimising travel around this time of year."

The controversial league-split was again met with criticism last term, attracting complaints from several clubs.

Blair added: "The split system does throw up issues and imbalances.

"These happen when a club who finished in the top six one year finishes in the bottom six the next year or vice versa.

"But if Celtic, Dundee United, Hearts, Hibernian, Motherwell and Rangers finish in the top six this season then all clubs will play 19 home games and 19 away games.

"Also, if this happens, clubs in each half of the split will play their opponents twice at home and twice away.

"Most of the games have also been reversed from last season.

"For example, the first Old Firm derby was at Ibrox last year, so this year it will be at Celtic Park."

This season sees Inverness replace Falkirk in the top-flight and Blair admits the inclusion of the Highlanders has also thrown up some challenges for the SPL.

He said: "It is a fact that, for most fans, Inverness is a bit further away than Falkirk.

"It's an extra few hours up the A9 for the clubs in the central belt but we just have to deal with that.

"You need to put it in context though, down south you have Middlesbrough and Portsmouth in the same division for example.

"We look at which clubs have had long journeys on midweek nights or at Christmas in recent seasons and try to avoid repeating them.

"But we can't have Inverness playing away on all those dates, that wouldn't be fair either."

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