Cheltenham Festival balcony footballers apologise for behaviour
Two professional footballers caught urinating into a glass on a packed balcony at the Cheltenham Festival have apologised for their behaviour.
MK Dons FC midfielder Samir Carruthers, 22, and Northampton Town's James Collins, 25, were pictured relieving themselves as they stood surrounded by people.
The photographs, printed in the Sun, also show Bristol City defender Luke Ayling, 24, smiling and with his arm around Carruthers as the liquid is poured over the railings.
Their actions have provoked fury and etiquette expert and author William Hanson told the Press Association the actions of the footballers flouted standards of "basic civility".
Apologising for his behaviour, Carruthers told Sky Sports: "I just want to say I'm sorry to everyone, my family, the club, chairman, the gaffer.
"I've not been raised up to do something like that and I've let everyone down.
I've let the community down and I've let Milton Keynes down and I have to take the criticism that comes with it.
"It's not something that should be laughed about. It's not an example I should be giving to kids either.
"I'm meant to be a role model and I have to live by my actions now and I really am hurt by what I've done."
Carruthers, who is being disciplined by his club following the incident, added: "It was a silly mistake and I just have to take everything that comes with it."
Collins, who has been fined two weeks wages and warned about his behaviour by his club, also issued a contrite apology.
He said: "I cannot apologise enough for my actions and the pictures from my visit to Cheltenham Races yesterday. I have completely let myself, my family, the fans, and the two clubs that I represent down and I am sorry to everyone involved.
"My actions are not excusable and whilst the pictures are rather misleading in that there were not people below this balcony and it was only a grassed area, there is still no defence to what happened."
The four-day festival is one of the highlights of the horse racing season, with Zara Phillips among the well-heeled guests at this year's event.
Tickets to some of the exclusive enclosures can cost more than £700 a day, and the images reignited debate over heavy drinking and vulgar behaviour at racing events.
Mr Hanson told the Press Association: "There is absolutely no excuse for what happened in any sort of social setting, whether it is a high-class one or a lower class one. It is just totally base.
"There is no massive code of etiquette that you have to follow at the races; it is just normal, polite, social, civil behaviour. It is not rocket science, it is not something for the elite; it is just basic civility.
"There is never any excuse for bad manners."
Mr Hanson said Cheltenham has a reputation for attracting a "coarser crowd" and can see behaviour "that would at Ascot have them reaching for the smelling salts".
But he warned that racing generally has a slightly tarnished image because of loutish behaviour.
While upping the ticket price remains an option to deter some people from attending the races, Mr Hanson said this would not do much to put off well-paid but badly-mannered footballers.
Instead, courses should consider imposing stricter sartorial standards in the hope that "if you dress smartly you are going to think smartly", he said.
"You could make it all morning dress, for example; a footballer is probably not going to realise what that is - he probably thinks its pyjamas - and kick them out the door," Mr Hanson said.
"But that really is all a bit Louis XIV and excluding people, and actually Cheltenham is all the classes coming together and getting on well. But then this happens."