First things first. There are more important things I had planned to do with my friday night than write something explaining to the people in charge of Scotland's Premiership clubs how their fixtures are scheduled and why it can lead to anomaly with teams facing an imbalanced fixture list.
Ever since the creation of the Scottish Premier League in 1999, Scottish football's top tier has featured a mid-season split after 33 games. It's created plenty of discussion points over the years and has, on occasion, seen teams face one side at home three times and away once or vice versa. It's not ideal, and it doesn't exactly fit in with Scottish football's mantra of 'sporting integrity' but it kinda works and as a Rangers fan we've probably have more to enjoy from the split than anyone else.
When it comes to scheduling the opening 33 games each team will face the other 11 sides three times. The eagle-eyed will have already spotted that playing 33 fixtures against 11 teams will lead to an imbalance. You'd be right. But the SPL (now the SPFL) have a workaround. Before the first 33 games are scheduled each team is given a projected finishing position based on the previous season; as Rangers were promoted from the Championship they'll be projected for a bottom 6 finish.
Still with me? Good.
Each teams fixtures are scheduled with their projected finishing place in mind. Teams expected to finish in the bottom six will have their fixtures scheduled so that, come the split, their remaining fixtures will work out so that they have played each side in the bottom six home and away twice. It's the same for the top six. If the six teams expected to finish in the top six actually finish in the top six their fixtures will see them play the other top six sides home and away twice.
Using last season's table the projections are:
Top six - Celtic, Aberdeen, Hearts, St. Johnstone, Motherwell & Ross County.
Bottom six - Inverness CT, Dundee, Partick, Hamilton, Kilmarnock & Rangers.
If, after 33 games, the league remains split as above each team will play the other five teams in their group so that they have played each one home and away twice and will have played the five sides in the other group three times (either twice at home and once away or vice versa). That also means Partick Thistle who today asked for compensation for the "sporting and financial disadvantage" put upon them would have three fixtures against the Old Firm at Firhill; one against Celtic and two against Rangers.
Of course, there are always flaws. If Rangers, or any other side for that matter, finish in the group they weren't predicted to then it can lead to a situation where a club plays three games at home against another. This happened last season when Partick Thistle played Dundee at Firhill three times. Dundee had been projected to finish in the top six based on their previous finish of sixth however fell into the bottom six creating a slight anomaly in the scheduling. This exists to ensure teams play, overall, on equal number (18) of home and away games over the season.
In the interests of sporting integrity, Partick Thistle never said a thing about hosting Dundee three times. Not a word. They certainly never offered compensation to Dundee, release a statement claiming to have been put at a sporting disadvantage or express anger or frustration but then I'd probably be angry and frustrated if I was going to miss out on maybe seeing Rangers too.
Motherwell aren't shy of voicing their displeasure over the scheduling, either pre or post split, often citing financial issues yet when Rangers came to Fir Park in the playoffs in 2015 they cut Rangers usual allocation of tickets.
A number of teams have suffered this throughout the 17 years this has been in operation and there have regularly been calls for the split to be scrapped. If Rangers finish in the top six this season it's very likely that they will face at least one team three times at home or away. It won't
There is a solution however. We can rid Scotland of the split and unbalanced fixtures forever. If only there had been a vote by clubs on reconstruction of the Scottish league system since 1999...