The Scottish Premier League is set for its earliest ever start date, kicking off the 2012 season on July 23.
The league says the earlier start date will allow clubs entering European competition to be better prepared than ever before.
A statement issued by the SPL said: “An earlier start date is an important part of the SPL’s strategic plan for Scottish football and should mean that SPL clubs involved in European qualifiers in July enter those games better prepared.”
“A July start date will also reduce the number of midweek games in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League during the winter months.”
However, clubs will still be allowed to compete in friendly matches – traditionally played in July – with a ‘one-off compromise’ protocol agreed.
For the forthcoming campaign, all SPL clubs can request one early-season fixture be postponed to allow participation in one-off friendlies and pre-season tournaments, which allow the opportunity to generate extra revenue.
This protocol will enable Celtic to appear in the Dublin Super Cup on July 30 and 31 alongside Manchester City and Inter Milan.
“Fixturing is a notoriously emotive area. Trying to shoe-horn so many games into a fixed period is an extremely difficult task – and one where SPL secretary Iain Blair is simply unable to please everyone all of the time,” SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster said.
“There is no ideal solution that suits all clubs. What’s vital is that any decision is fair, balanced and in the overall interests of all clubs. And I am confident that the decision on our start date for next season is precisely that.”
“It will help teams in European competition. It will reduce fixture congestion and the number of unpopular winter midweek games later in the season.”
“It will boost clubs’ incomes and increase the value of SPL games to broadcasters. And it’s what fans tell us they want.”
The statement said the SPL does expect not many clubs to take advantage of the flexibility to postpone a league match, with no cutoff date set for applications to request a fixture change.