East Stirlingshire give up on fair play convention

April 8, 2009

I’m not sure if Alex Ferguson would approve of a decision taken by one of his old clubs but East Stirlingshire, where he began his managerial career as a 32-year-old in 1974, have just taken a very controversial stand against “sporting behaviour”.

The modest club, whose major objective in the recent past was to avoid
finishing bottom of the Scottish Third Division, but are currently third in the table, have ordered their players NOT to kick the ball out of play if one of their opponents is down injured.

Coach Jim McInally has told his team to only stop playing if the referee orders them to do so. He was furious following an incident during their 2-0 win at Forfar Athletic on Saturday.

After play stopped 10 minutes from time so an East Stirling player could be treated for injury, Forfar goalkeeper Ally Brown tried to restart play with a soft pass back to East Stirling. However, Forfar’s substitute striker Calum Smith had other ideas.

With time running out and his side 2-0 down, he decided to try and pull one back and was only prevented from scoring by a save from East Stirling keeper Mark Peat.

Players from both sides started arguing which led to three of them being booked and McInally banning his side from kicking the ball out for an injury in future.

“It may seem a bit unsporting, but football is a ruthless business at times,” he explained. “If Forfar had scored, they would have had a foothold in the game and the last few minutes might have been tricky for us.”

Most fans accept the sporting convention as part of the game now and remember how Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger offered to replay an FA Cup tie against Sheffield United after his side had scored without giving the ball back after an injury. It made no difference in the end. They won the original game 2-1 and the replayed game by the same score.

Of course, there is no law against being unsporting in this respect — it is just a convention that has grown up with FIFA’s approval to make the game fairer. But is McInally right or wrong?

Is there a place for sportsmanship in the ruthless world of the Scottish Third Division — or anywhere else for that matter?

PHOTO: Arsenal’s Dutch winger Marc Overmars (R) is congratulated by his Nigerian team mate Nwanko Kanu (C) after scoring a controversial goal during their F.A Cup fifth round match. Sheffield United’s captain David Holdsworth reacts angrily, Feb. 13, 1999. REUTERS/Ian Hodgson

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