St Johnstone have announced they will give over three sides of McDiarmid Park to visiting Old Firm fans when they next host Celtic and Rangers.
The Perth outfit say they are being forced to trial the new arrangements in response to a fall in the number of Saints supporters turning out when the Glasgow giants are in town.
Only 1,451 fans showed up to see September’s 4-0 pasting from Steven Gerrard’s Light Blues – the lowest home contingent of the season so far compared to an average of more than 2,200.
The scheme means some season ticket holders will have to be relocated from other sections to the main West Stand but club chiefs insist the move will benefit both the atmosphere for Tommy Wright’s team and the club’s coffers.
In a statement, Saints bosses said: “For some time now, the logistics of administering the home matches involving Celtic and Rangers has been something of a challenge for the club.
“Seat allocation, ever-changing fixture dates and kick-off times and a noticeable lack of enthusiasm from our supporters in the fixtures themselves have all combined to produce a marked reduction in season ticket attendees at Celtic and Rangers fixtures over the years.
“The club makes a huge effort to ensure that visiting fans do not purchase tickets for home areas of the ground.
“Increased demand from away fans and the requirements of the SPFL have meant that there has been a restricted ability to provide an ‘open sale’ of tickets to our own fans.
“Various efforts have been made to address the challenges posed by these matches and this has, in the past, involved the relocation of valued season ticket holders in the East and Ormond Stands to other areas of the stadium.
“Season ticket holders can be very proprietorial over their allocated seats and understandably so. Many may have been held by them for a number of years and some have been in their families since the stadium opened. This is recognised and appreciated by the board.
“However, the new road and safety requirements, which involve and affect the safety aspects of these fixtures have resulted in material changes in the way in which Celtic and Rangers fixtures will require to be administered in the future.
“With this in mind, the board has carefully considered how best to deal with these challenges, taking into account the safety, comfort and interests of our fans and the overall impact on the club both from an administrative and financial perspective.
“With the foregoing in mind, the board has decided to trial the remaining matches this season against both Celtic and Rangers, with an increased allocation to away fans and all Saints fans will be accommodated in the West Stand.
“This stand accommodates in excess of 3,000 fans, which going by recent analysis will be sufficient to accommodate the projected likely number of attendees from our home support.
“The club hopes that our valued supporters will understand the reasoning behind the introduction of this trial and the board welcomes all feedback on the experiences of our fans at the next few matches, prior to making a decision on any long-term arrangements.”
St Johnstone host Celtic on January 29 while Rangers next visit on February 23.
Livingston are currently the only other Ladbrokes Premiership club to hand over three stands to the Old Firm duo. Last season Kilmarnock slashed the Old Firm’s ticket allocation from two stands to one.
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