FOOTBALL, as the saying goes, is a funny old game, particularly when it comes to the concept of sportsmanship.

The controversy from Sunday’s match at Celtic Park - when Motherwell’s James Scott latched onto a throw-in after Celtic kicked the ball out to substitute the injured Ryan Christie - has rather been overtaken by events. But to recap, Scott Bain saved the young striker’s shot, only for teammate Gboly Ariyibi to run in and score to send the crowd wild for all the wrong reasons.

As current conventions stand, he was clearly in the wrong and Celtic had every right to be spitting feathers. Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson was quick to defend his 18-year-old forward after the game due to his naivety, but slow to offer any guidance to his side over what course of action to take once the misdeed had been done.

And therein lies the problem. When gentlemen’s agreements are breached in football, what happens next? The hypocrisy of fans and players is self-evident as they are prepared to look the other way when it is to their benefit and react with outrage when it is not.

The Celtic players wanted and indeed expected Motherwell to allow them to score straight from kick-off to make amends, but as the Steelmen’s captain at the time Richard Tait revealed afterwards, the thought never crossed his mind.

They passed up what would have been a noble act and a face-saving exercise, and had they gone on to manage a draw or a win, heaven knows what the reaction would have been.

The whole affair raises the question though of why the notion of letting the opposition score because one of your players has partaken in the dark arts only applies to this situation?

If a player dives to win a penalty, and your team profits by scoring it, would you clamour to let the opposition even things up straight from kick-off? If you claim for a throw-in or a corner that shouldn’t be your ball, and the erroneous award leads to a goal, should you hold up your hands and wave the opposing striker through on goal?

Football is riddled with these moral inconsistencies. Have you witnessed your team on the attack only for a member of the opposing side to go down injured, and then miraculously recover as soon as the ball is put out of play? After a few seconds of limping of course to sell it before breaking into a sprint as the ball comes anywhere near them. Skullduggery of this sort is shrugged off, and yet failing to return the ball is seen as an act of unspeakable malfeasance.

This is not to excuse what happened on Sunday. Motherwell and Scott were clearly at it. But it seems to me the time has come to admit that professional footballers, given the competitive environment they operate in and the massive stakes at play, may not be the best moral arbiters of right and wrong.

The notion of a Corinthian spirit still being alive in football is outdated and naïve. Football’s reluctance to let go of this last bastion of gentlemanly conduct just looks like a grand empty gesture once you realise that anything else goes.

The solution is to simply let the referee decide when is the right time to stop the game and what the appropriate method of restarting it should be. As sad as it is, football long since conceded the moral high ground.


IT was quite the drive up the road from Kilmarnock the other night after a blanket of fog thicker than the gravy in a Killie pie descended and led to the abandonment of their game against Motherwell just after the second half kicked off. I don't mind admitting the Killie pie I consumed earlier in the evening was almost evacuated from my stomach several times on the white-knuckle ride up the M77.

So, fair play to the fans who attended, who must now feel they have been slapped in the face after Kilmarnock moved the goalposts in regards to admittance to the rearranged fixture.

On the night, supporters who paid in were handed a voucher to guarantee entry into the game whenever it was replayed, but with the SPFL decreeing that this Saturday is when that will now happen - thus scuppering Killie's planned trip to Tenerife - they have performed a U-turn. These vouchers are now obsolete, and Kilmarnock have set admission prices at £5 for an adult and £3 for under-16s.

It's not a huge amount, but even allowing for stewarding and policing costs, it seems a massive PR own goal.

Even if they get a fiver from the 650 travelling fans who were there on Wednesday night, paying £22 for 46 minutes of football, that will only recoup £3250. Would these additional costs not be the same whenever the game was played? If so, why hand out vouchers in the first place?

Had they honoured vouchers and reduced prices to attract others along to a Saturday 3pm kick-off, they may well have cleaned their face, and saved face in the process.