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Bad Sports? The Decline of Sporting Behaviour

Sep 5, 2008
Is it the sports that have turned bad or are we becoming bad sports? Most of our sportsmen and women are the exemplary role models we would hope for our children to look up to. However, increasingly there are scenes on our televisions and stories in the press of behaviour that is less than ideal. Football players fighting and arguing on the pitch and swearing if a decision isn't one they like. Cricketers claiming catches that they didn't actually make and then being shown up later in the game. Cycling and horseracing are continually under scrutiny. Drugs cheats being allowed to compete again at any level and then fighting to go to the Olympics again. Even being given captaincy honours for their country after being suspended for drugs.

It is becoming something that we all expect and accept and I'm not sure that I'm happy with that. In an ideal world all players will be honest and sporting and own up when they have bent the rules and all officials will be unbiased and unable to be influenced. All athletes would only use hard work to achieve their goal without resorting to drugs. Sadly we don't live in an ideal world and it's making competitive sport a bit of a non-event.

As a result the other thing that is taking over is the "extra official" this new need for a play back of incidents on the field to decide if the umpire or referee is right in their decision. More and more sports are introducing electronic umpires and using TV to clear up tricky decisions but is this policy best? Does it just invite players to question the officials? In slower moving games such as cricket and tennis it seems to work well where the pause naturally occurs in the game and the footage can be checked immediately and an outcome given. It could also be argued that it might be useful for settling all the dubious offside calls or missed calls that seem to happen in every football match of the season. It does become intrusive though and affects the flow of the game. Critics will argue what is the point of having officials on the pitch or court if a TV screen then gives the decision? I would agree, the officials are there to oversee the game and the players must agree to trust their judgement on all points throughout the match. Some will go your way and others won't.

The problems arise when human integrity breaks down and greed plays a part. Big money bonuses for players who score, teams that win and the sack for those who under perform don't add up to a neutral playing field of "May the best man/woman/team win". It invites dishonesty; it encourages being a bit cheeky to see what you can get away with. At the very top of the scale it lends it's hand to match/race fixing and outright cheating and where is the fun in that?

In this world where so much rides on winning should we allow it to be at any cost? High profile sportspeople and officials should have the utmost integrity and most of them do, but the others are ruining things for everyone. The fact that the wrong decision can then be proven a few minutes later with a TV re-play just adds fuel to the fire. We need things to be uniform so we know what the rules are. If in doubt watch a re-run, every time so that it can't be disputed later or the officials' decision is final, in all cases at all times, accept it and move on - including the pundits.

As a mother of two small children we are continually trying to teach our youngsters that the fun is in the taking part and that winning isn't everything. But with the money stakes so high these days and talks of even more "Super Leagues" in sports like cricket where the winners take all, how can we promote fair play and gentlemanly behaviour? The sports themselves seem to be encouraging the bad behaviour, because losing just isn't an option. Losing means no money and possibly not getting another chance to earn any more. What will happen to all the fun?

What I want is to see players owning up, accepting decisions and referees and umpires asking for another opinion when they really aren't sure and an important result is riding on the outcome. Test for drugs regularly as a matter of course especially leading up to and during a major event and anyone who isn't happy with that shouldn't be participating - end of discussion. Play fair or don't play at all.

Sometimes people get it wrong and they make mistakes and sometimes people cheat. Either we govern all aspects of sport in a similar fashion to make sure that the cheats never prosper. Or we take a long hard look at the way sport is going take away or even out some of the money aspect and therefore the temptation and bring back the fun.

Sportsmen and women are role models for our children and I don't want mine to see highly paid men fighting and swearing and then getting their way. I don't want them to think that it's OK to take drugs to be better because all the others do. I want a clear message, that this is unacceptable, behave appropriately. If you cheat you lose and if you take drugs you never take part again.

Enough is enough I say! Don't be a "Bad Sport" sometimes the other man/woman/team is better, so stop whinging. Have some respect for the game, the other participants, the officials, yourselves and more importantly the spectators.
About the Author
We sell a range of sports gear, including cricket equipment and goods. Please visit our website at http://www.morrant.com.
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