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Touchline spats overshadowing football

There is a worrying trend of violence rearing its ugly head again in Scottish football, although it is now being found on the touchline rather than the terraces.

In the 1980s, football north of the border was once blighted by organised hooliganism in an era when groups of fans used to spread terror throughout the country. Whilst an element of trouble still remains when rival clubs clash, new measures and more stringent policing have helped to curb that threat.

But more recently, angry confrontations between opposing managers and officials have again thrust the Scottish game into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Craig Brown's spat with Motherwell chairman John Boyle comes in the wake of the highly publicised bust-up between Old Firm pair Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon.

Boyle, still clearly angry following Brown's decision to leave the Steelmen to manage Aberdeen in December, confronted his former manager just seconds after the final whistle of the weekend encounter. The holiday tycoon, who only arrived at the stadium at the end of the game, shook hands with Brown then appeared to grab hold of his neck before making a comment into his left ear.

That sparked chaotic scenes as 70-year-old Brown quickly followed his former employer down the tunnel.

The former Scotland manager has refused to go into too much detail about the incident which has hogged the headlines despite Motherwell's 2-1 success. "I've been asked not to say too much, but I know I did nothing wrong," Brown said. "I didn't understand what he said, which is why I went after him as I did. I wanted John to repeat it and to ask why he chose to approach me in the manner that he did."

Brown, who has been clearly warned to distance himself as much as he can from the incident, is convinced he has no case to answer. However, both McCoist and Lennon were with hit with touchline bans in the immediate aftermath of their Parkhead altercation.

Lennon's was later removed but Brown now runs the risk of being banned for Aberdeen's Scottish Cup semi-final showdown with Celtic later this month. That's a fixture the Dons really need to win to retain any real interest in their season with their top-six hopes all but over.

Brown added: "The police and the two clubs are dealing with what happened and I'm happy to leave them to do it. But I don't anticipate any problems for me. What I can say is I was quite free to leave Motherwell when I did. I had an agreement that I could go and they also had an agreement that they could sack me, with no compensation either way.

"I have retained a dignified approach to the whole thing since then and I will continue to do that, despite what went on at the weekend."

Brown insists the incident will do nothing to tarnish his affection for Motherwell, the club where he kicked off his coaching career. He's even been heartened by the fact several members of the Fir Park backroom staff apologised for the chairman's actions.

But just what is the cause of the recent problems we've seen between SPL managers in recent seasons?

Perhaps Scottish football has become an even more intense pressure-pot environment in which to operate as economic conditions continue to bite even harder. Maybe there's more expected from individual bosses when it comes to finding success on minimal budgets.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, something clearly needs to be done to prevent another similarly damaging incident from happening again in the near future.

Match commander Superintendent Brian Connel has confirmed police are now investigating the incident which could form part of a bigger inquest following the Old Firm flashpoint.

He said: "We are not looking at this as any form of criminal inquiry. But given some of the issues we have seen at other football grounds it's only right we make inquiries into this.

"There was an exchange of words and very minor pushing thereafter so we just wanted to make sure there was no criminal element to that. We have not identified any criminal element. Nonetheless with the assistance of both clubs we will make sure we get to the bottom of it."

With Scottish football in a perilous state, touchline trouble is the last thing the decision makers want to be addressing.

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