The announcement of the decision to hold the Rangers v Celtic Derby on Hogmanay has caused a lot of controversy amongst sections of the populace with many believing that those who decided this fixture’s date and time have made a grave error in judgement.
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association, representing Scotland’s pubs and bars, has called for the date to be changed and say that the level of "irresponsibility" and "naivety" shown by the broadcasters and all those consulted on the decision "seriously brings into question their professional judgement".
In a statement released by the SLTA, which calls the decision to hold the game on Hogmanay "senseless", the group wrote:
"For Police Scotland to state that it was the best option “in terms of the needs of the interested parties and minimising the wider community impact” is “incomprehensible”, a term used by the Scottish Police Federation General Secretary, Calum Steele, on hearing of the decision. Surely Police Scotland’s responsibility is to the “wider community impact” and not the “needs of the interested parties” a reference no doubt to the SPFL and Broadcasters.
"The fact that this will be the first time in 126 years that a Rangers v Celtic fixture has been set for Hogmanay might just suggest to the more enlightened and experienced that it is not exactly the brightest of ideas.
"For the football authorities, and not forgetting the broadcasters who have a huge financial interest in the setting of this fixture, to be the only decision makers in this “unique event” on Hogmanay when not only the whole of Glasgow, but the rest of the country, its residents and businesses will be affected, is outrageous."
Paul Waterson Chief Executive of the SLTA added: “There are the obvious concerns; a far longer period for drinking; emergency services being subjected to extra pressure at an already busy time; hospitality venues stretched, although we are aware of some Glasgow city centre venues already reporting booking cancellations since the announcement. This action falls in line with the usual drop in visitors to the city centre on Rangers v Celtic Derby days.
"Our pubs and bars will as always have a responsibility of controlling drinking within their premises, but who is going to control unsupervised home drinking and drinking in the street, particularly on a day such as Hogmanay?”
He then continued to ask whether those involved had taken all of the factors surrounding previous matches into consideration when making the decision, adding: “Have those involved in this decision taken into account the fact that Police Scotland reported that the number of calls concerning domestic abuse cases almost doubled on the day the teams met in their Scottish Cup semi-final match earlier this year?
"Does no one remember Police Scotland’s campaign last year during the festive season to reduce Get daily news by email the number of domestic incidents during the festive period, 'a time when domestic violence is at it’s highest'?
"It would seem not as both issues will now be drawn together by the staging of a Rangers v Celtic game on Hogmanay”.
The SLTA statement also mentioned the fact that the Glasgow Licensing Board had been "quiet on the issue" which the group found "surprising" referring to the fact that the Board have just refused to grant the Oktoberfest a liquor licence following a police complaint, which included details of violence, drunkenness and disorder at a previous event in 2015.
"Police Scotland said it would pose a serious risk to public order. As part of its objection, Police Scotland included details of last year's Oktoberfest where it was claimed the majority of 2200 revelers were heavily under the influence of alcohol by 4.30 p.m. Do Police Scotland not have the same concerns for a Rangers v Celtic match on Hogmanay?
"The Scottish Government also appear to be indifferent towards the problems this fixture undoubtedly presents and we would like to hear their views on the matter. We will also be very interested if Community Safe Glasgow, the NHS, Alcohol Focus Scotland and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce also share our concerns."
The SLTA also added that from from a commercial point of view this decision was "also not welcome".
"In 2011 Glasgow’s traditional Hogmanay party was scrapped in favour of switching to more family friendly events aimed at boosting the day and night time economy of the city, the hope being that family events would be more enjoyable to more people and attract more visitors over the full day and night of Hogmanay. The 'Glasgow Loves Hogmanay' series of events on 31 December was supported by the city's hospitality industry and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.
"Its Commercial Director said at the time ‘The entertainment economy is a priority sector for us with our bars, clubs, restaurants and other venues estimated to generate £600m for the local economy and employing almost 30,000 people throughout the city. By promoting Glasgow as a destination we can encourage locals and visitors to use the wide range of top-class facilities, enjoy themselves during their stay and to visit again.’
"This decision has blown the concept 'Glasgow Loves Hogmanay' out of the water and condemned the city of Glasgow to a Hogmanay of concern and uncertainty."
The statement finished by calling for the decision to be reversed and the game to be played on a different date when "all those involved can be focused on controlling fans before, during and after this often volatile game".