LOVE and marriage, horses and carriages, football and a flutter. One of Scottish football’s perennial hand-wringers came to the fore again as its uneasy relationship with gambling did another circuit this week following the revelations from Hamilton manager Brian Rice.

The 55-year-old has been candid about the demons he is battling in his private life and he is one of only a number of footballers who have struggled with the same illness.

But the reality is that for all the chat and column inches filled on the subject this week, little will change.

Largely because it can’t.

The policing of the current black-and-white system is impossible and vaguely absurd; a part-time Dumbarton player, for example, couldn’t stick a fiver on the outcome of the Champions League final as the current rules stand. In terms of sponsorship, betting revenue is a prop that would bring Scottish football’s house down if it were to be removed given the paucity of television revenue available to its clubs.

Putting a coupon on and watching the scores come in as a pastime, for the most part harmless, is a scene that plays out up and down the country every week.

That it is prevalent within football dressing rooms ought not come as a huge surprise; it is not an environment that is removed from the day-to-day realities of life. Throw in the ease with which vast amounts of money can dissipate in seconds from the couch in your living room, add to that the empty hours that are available to many involved in football and then factor in the extra income that burns a hole in the pocket and the formula is there for a fairly potent mix.

But there are so many factors that contribute to addiction and environment – from the earliest days – is key. Addiction does not come in isolation but is borne out of a mental-health problem.

And if we are to have an adult conversation about gambling within sport, then it has to be based around the environmental pressures that surround players from their most formative years. For this is where the breeding ground for addictive behaviours is set and where our ability to manage stress, cope with pressure, handle setbacks and deal with fairly big emotional responses are forged.

Making it as a footballer is tough. Staying a footballer is arguably tougher still. If a dressing room can be full of camaraderie and companionship, it can also be fiercely competitive, harsh and entirely unforgiving.

This summer vast numbers of 16-year-olds who have spent significant years of their childhood with one club will be released. Some will find other clubs but for others there will be a slow realisation that attention needs to be given to something else – no easy feat when every spare moment has been sacrificed for football.

Clubs have spent the last decade or so investing hugely in making the most out of “small margins.” Every club has a sports science department, an analytics department, nutritionists. Morning urine tests that determine how well a player has slept, eaten, hydrated and recovered are fairly routine. They also would identify an issue with drink or drugs fairly rapidly in a way that gambling issues cannot be spotted. No stone is left unturned. Hormones in urine can also determine elevated cortisol – stress – levels.

Having access to mental health support ought to be a part of the conversation at clubs, particularly at youth and grassroots level.

Dealing and confronting emotional problems ought to inoculate against addiction issues more than simply drawing an illusory line in the sand and telling players to stand well back.

Hamilton Accies have handled the situation with Rice impeccably this week. Acknowledging the problem and admitting that it is being treated as an illness has elicited a groundswell of support and sympathy for the Hamilton manager.

Still, within the parameters of the law, it is unlikely that his confession will result in leniency from the SFA.

Having breached the regulations with allegedly over 1000 bets over a five-year period Rice can expect a hefty fine and a significant ban for his offences.

Fronting up and speaking openly about the issues he has is to be applauded. But while it might have staved off any crisis at the club had the news broken before he had held his hands up, the reality is that there will be a sanction coming his way to add to his difficulties.

IF a week is a short, sharp shock in politics it can be an age in Scottish football. Leigh Griffiths’ Celtic future might yet depend on what happens this week going into the final days of the January transfer window but the events of the last seven days would suggest that he is not done just yet.

Two goals in two games – and a nice little spat at Rugby Park to keep things interesting – would point to the fact he can still have a part to play under Neil Lennon. As Celtic chase a record-equalling ninth successive title then Lennon will be well aware that he needs the tried and tested route rather then a project that might or might not work out.

And a fit and prolific Griffiths would be good news not just for Celtic but for Scotland as Steve Clarke’s side move towards the March play-offs. The key for the striker, however, is sustaining the work-rate and application that have got him back into the starting line-up.