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3:25:27 PM
Celtic's Japanese tour plans set to kill off SPL extension hopes
CELTIC look set to kill off any chance of an extended SPL season by taking Gordon Strachan's team out of the country before the end of the domestic campaign.

Record Sport understands the Parkhead club are trying to fix up a tour of Japan that would see them jetting out of Glasgow immediately after the last scheduled round of SPL fixtures on May 18 and ahead of the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden. And this plan will scupper Rangers' hopes of persuading league bosses to save them from a potentially crippling title run-in.

We revealed last week how the Ibrox club have held crisis talks with SPL secretary Iain Blair in a bid to thrash out an emergency schedule that would kick in if Rangers beat Sporting Lisbon to reach the UEFA Cup semi-finals.

The SPL have tabled a proposal that would force Walter Smith's side to squeeze four of their final five league games into a frantic eight-day period - the week before a possible UEFA Cup Final.

Smith and Rangers' chief executive Martin Bain want to avoid this "nightmare scenario" and have called for the rules to be relaxed and the season extended.

But that will require the consent of all six top-flight clubs who - in order to protect the integrity of the competition - would have to agree to playing their final fixtures simultaneously at a later date.

Celtic's plan to be on the other side of the planet at the time will make that rather awkward.

The Parkhead manager Gordon Strachan and chief executive Peter Lawwell have already put on record their objections to Rangers' request for the season to be extended.

If the money-making plans to take Shunsuke Nakamura and Koki Mizuno back home are finalised quickly then, should Rangers progress in their improbable quest for a quadruple, Celtic will have a concrete and lucrative reason to oppose any rescheduling.

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