Day the Circus Came to Town; Boyle: Blames Lanarkshire's Sodden 'Microclimate' Fever Pitch: SPL Fixtures Were Thrown into Chaos on Saturday after Fir Park Was Declared Unplayable Yet Again by Referee Dougie McDonald (below Right), despite Efforts to Protect the Ground from the Elements (below Left)

Article excerpt


THE SPLalready reeling from Gretna's imminent demisewas thrown into further chaos at the weekend when Motherwell owner John Boyledeclared that Fir Park would have to close for a month for imminent andmuch-needed repairs on its rain-soaked pitch. Apart from the inconvenience ofCeltic fans only hearing of the postponement of their game at Motherwell justhours before kick-off on Saturday, the situation means that both theLanarkshire club and their ground-share tenants Gretna are now effectivelyhomeless for the foreseeable future. Moves will be made today to rearrange analready shambolic fixture card but, as BRIAN MARJORIBANKS argues, the SPL mayonly have themselves to blame for much of the mess they now find themselvesin..

IT'S ironic to think that Gretna's proposal to stage their SPL matches atvarious venues around the country was knocked back last summer on the groundsthat it would render Scotland's showpiece league a travelling circus.

For the decision on Saturday by Motherwell owner John Boyle to shut Fir Parkfor a month to treat its mudbath of a pitchafter their match with Celtic was once again postponedmeans a circus is precisely what the SPL has become anyway.

Already penniless, relegated and doomed, Gretna now find themselves homeless,tooalongside their ground-share landlords Motherwellas the Lanarkshire surface was finally declared not fit for purpose after arain-lashed three months.

It is amazing to think that Gretna's lack of an SPL compliant stadium wassolved by moving to one which is patently unfit for topflight football.

Boyle, a touch bizarrely, blamed the situation on Lanarkshire seeming to haveits own 'micro-climate' and continues to maintain that it is nothing to do withgroundsharing, given that reserve matches were also staged there last season.

The truth is that Motherwell have not covered themselves in glory over thiswhole episodea charge they share with their league masters in Hampden's sixth floor.

SPL requirements state that clubs are under obligation to take all reasonablesteps to maintain their pitch in good order, while the SPL board are entitledto direct a club to take the necessary steps so an adequate standard of surfaceis assured.

Motherwell, clearly, have failed up until now with the former, while the SPLhave not shown the strong leadership required on the latter.

They are also open to criticism for agreeing to postpone Gretna's December homematch against Rangers in order to aid the Ibrox side's ultimately failedChampions League campaign, a decision Setanta chief Colin Davidson yesterdayblamed for starting a snowball effect of postponements at Fir Park.

After weeks of indecision, however, the SPL will now come down heavily onMotherwell for their role in this fiasco. …