Football: THE BA'S BURST; SPL in Meltdown as Fir Park Shuts for Month Gretna Move Another Step towards Closure Worst Fixture Pile-Up in Scottish League History

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), March 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

Football: THE BA'S BURST; SPL in Meltdown as Fir Park Shuts for Month Gretna Move Another Step towards Closure Worst Fixture Pile-Up in Scottish League History


Byline: By BILLY HANNAH and MARK GUIDI

SCOTTISH football was plunged into meltdown yesterday after Motherwell closed Fir Park for a month to fix their dodgy pitch.

And the knock-on effect will push Well's cash-strapped tenants Gretna a huge step closer to death's door.

The Steelmen decided to shut Fir Park after yesterday's live TV clash with Celtic was KO'd by the muddy pitch for a second time.

Now the SPL has two homeless clubs - as it faces the worst fixture pile-up in its history.

Gretna were banking on gate money from next Sunday's clash with Celtic - due for Fir Park - to save them from extinction.

But that match is in doubt and SPL chiefs will hold crisis talks tomorrow to launch a frantic search for a neutral venue to save Gretna, who were forced into administration last week.

News of the Fir Park closure came in a day of drama that saw Well blasteded by Celtic and TV firm Setanta.

Motherwell owner John Boyle admitted he was embarrassed by the ninth Fir Park postponement of the season but bizarrely blamed a micro-climate for the problem.

Boyle revealed the pitch needs extensive drainage work and insisted Well had no option but to close the stadium.

He said: "There is no excuse for what happened and I can only apologise.

"Our drainage problems have been exacerbated by the fact that Lanarkshire seems to have a micro climate.

"Mark McGhee and I drive every morning from Glasgow and it's often dry until you hit the cusp of Lanarkshire when it's coming down in buckets."

Well's next home match is on March 30 against Hibs and Boyle will ask for it to be played at Easter Road.

He said: "We are going to ask the SPL to relocate some of our fixtures so fans, especially the away fans, have certainty."

Boyle also pledged to help Gretna find a venue for that life-saving clash with Celtic.

He said: "We are in talks with the administrators of Gretna. I would say the game will go on but not at Fir Park.

"There are plenty of football grounds. It could be Airdrie, Livingston or Hampden.

"We're upset. I've had people working all night. We are hugely embarrassed. It's not good enough."

Well manager Mark McGhee said: "We tried everything to improve the surface.

"We've covered the pitch and put in the hot air. …

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