Time to demand better behaviour from our sporting heroes

The issue at the heart of recent footballer fiascos is acceptance of the responsibility that comes with celebrity.

In many ways, it is the football establishment that has dropped the ball by not adequately preparing players for the considerable risk that celebrity can pose to their personal and professional reputations.

It is astounding that in this modern football age, which uses sophisticated training regimes including GPS tracking of players, and which depends upon split second decision-making by finely-tuned athletes, that little attempt is made to simultaneously develop the decision-making capability of these testosterone-laden men off the field.

It is astounding that in this modern football age, where literally millions of dollars are invested in the various football brands, that each player is not constantly drilled with the 24/7 responsibility he carries to protect the integrity of the brand and therefore his own livelihood.

Why is this so? In part, I believe this can be attributed to our own willingness to let successful professional sportsmen get away with blokish and yobbish behaviour. It is a combination of the “boys will be boys” deflection with the “win at any cost” mentality.

At the heart of this, it is the fans who condone the behaviour, and so the football management and sponsors follow suit.

Professional footballers can be paid up to 2-3 times more than the politicians who run our country. The politicians know that they are under constant scrutiny by the community and, while there are some notable exceptions, most act accordingly.

Conversely, professional footballers are led to believe – by management and by fans – that they are publicly accountable only for their actions on the field and that what happens after the game is nobody’s business but their own. This selective accountability is magnified if the individual is particularly talented or his club is high on the ladder.

It is indeed true that what happens in an individual’s private life is their own business. Equally though, each person must also conduct themselves in a way to ensure that their private life does not spill into and adversely impact their public life.

Surely the time has come to teach these men that their playing career is a job, not a game, and that it should be taken seriously – both on and off field. Surely the time has come for alcohol to be ruled out of a professional footballer’s life – as it is for many other professional athletes.

Surely the time has come for football management to equip these young men with the awareness and skills necessary to realise they don’t have to get drunk to have a good time, don’t have to flash their bits to have a laugh, and don’t have to demean a eoman to feel like a man.

Surely its time for the fans to realise that we have created a monster and to start demanding better behaviour from our sporting heroes.

Post script: The “St Kilda schoolgirl” posted a very similar piece of advice on her blog in February.

This post also appeared at The Notion Factory.

Author: Drag0nista

Political columnist at The New Daily | Editor of Despatches & AusVotes 2019 | Author of On Merit, a book on the Liberals' *women problem*. Former Liberal staffer and industry lobbyist. Studying the entrails of federal politics since 1989.

7 thoughts on “Time to demand better behaviour from our sporting heroes”

  1. I do believe there is a difference in how the Sydney media have treated NRL scandals as opposed to the Melbourne media’s reaction to AFL scandals.

    NRL players are not as protected as AFL players are. That does not mean the Sydney media is perfect but the recent big scandals have been covered in detail by both News and Fairfax.

    I don’t live in Melbourne but from afar the Melbourne media seem afraid to write anything to upset Demetriou and in turn the clubs. This is creating an insular culture of denial.

  2. Did we have these sort of issues when sports people had to have regular jobs? It seems to me the whole issue is that they constantly surrounded by people who accept bad behaviour and will go to any lengths to cover it up.

  3. Thank you for raising this issue. As a resident of Melbourne it does seem that there is a pretty constant stream of stories about some footballer doing something stupid, aggressive or illegal. These dim acts usually involve at least two out of the three traps for young players: the Casino/a nightclub, alcohol or ‘doin’ stuff wiv me mates’.

    Marty above highlights one key aspect: for some bizarre reason football is a ‘full time’ thing, leaving way too much time not filled with running around the oval, buffing up in the gym, having the inevitable groin, knee or hammy injury seen to, or negotiating with their agent for even more money next season.

    And it is very apparent that these guys are so limited in either intellect or interest that they have zero resources to use productively the absurd amount of spare time lying heavily on their hands. Talk about a lack of imagination!
    These guys are channeled into a very narrow ‘good at sports’ stream surprisingly early in their teens and that seems to be it. They are not socialised as they need to be and nor are they given sufficient regard for gaining an education. (How many boofy ex-player sportscasters does any society need?)

    Another factor seems to be the whole focus – obsession? – with doing stuff as a team or a bunch of blokes. Sure, showering, but also gambling, drinking, socialising (and even s*x, apparently) are done en masse. These guys display few resources for being with themselves.

    Then there’s the frankly silly money that these guys are given. As teenagers and young men they are foolishly wealthy when they have few resources to use this great good fortune wisely.

  4. It’s true, there are reports of some AFL players misbehaving, but please, try to avoid generalising. There are 800 or more young men in the AFL. Are you saying they are all the same? Many of them are studying to ensure they have a career when their football days are over.
    Be fair. It’s really easy to write about the “bad” guys, but why not speak to a few clubs about what they do to educate their players. You might be surprised to learn that they are taught of pitfalls to avoid, and a small minority don’t take the advice.

    1. No, I am not saying that any of these players are “bad”. I’m saying that they are being let down by an institution that does not teach them that they are on display 24/7, whether they like it or not, that they have relinquished their right to get blind drunk in the name of having fun, and that mixing alcohol/drugs and women is a volatile cocktail that has more risks than they would like to think. Time to let go of the “boys will be boys” mentality and take a professional approach to off-field behaviour as well as that on-field.

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