Sports stars 'undermine the teaching of fair play'

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The Independent Online

Cheating sports stars are undermining schools' attempts to teach children honesty and fair play, a leading prep school headteacher warned yesterday.

Cheating sports stars are undermining schools' attempts to teach children honesty and fair play, a leading prep school headteacher warned yesterday.

The increase of "systematic thuggery" on the sports field is making it harder for schools to teach children how to "lose with dignity", according to David Kidd, chairman of the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS).

Footballers who "dive" in the penalty area or argue with the referee, rugby players who stamp on opponents and cricketers who refuse to "walk" when dismissed, all make it harder for schools and teachers to encourage honesty and enthusiasm in children, Mr Kidd said yesterday.

Mr Kidd, headmaster of Culford Preparatory School, in Suffolk, told the opening of the prep schools' annual conference in Torquay that sports stars were setting an increasingly bad example, a situation not helped by managers.

"The responsibility for players' conduct lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the managers," he said. "And yet, time and time again, football managers spend their time in front of the TV cameras, blaming the referee and trying to defend the indefensible."

He argued that the damage to young children who saw their sporting heroes behave badly could not be under-estimated.

"How many of you feel, like me, totally undermined in our efforts to instill sporting values and instinctive fair play into our youngsters, when the role models behave so badly? The television images of footballers dissenting and harassing referees do nothing to help us, when we are attempting to teach our pupils to win with grace and to lose with dignity."

Football was not alone, said Mr Kidd. "Systematic thuggery, which is seen regularly in top-class rugby, also causes difficulty for school games teachers. Deliberate stamping at rucks, late tackles designed to injure key opponents and take them out of the game all go to create an impression that thuggery and violence are acceptable. They are not!"

Mr Kidd called on all adults, but particularly those in schools, to consider the impact their actions had on children. "The example that adults give children has a profound effect on them. Stop and consider what message you are giving your pupils if you are seen to be behaving unfairly, rudely, careless of the feelings of others, and unwilling to tolerate another's point of view.

"Children can spot injustice very quickly. If we want our schools to be full of good caring citizens who are pursuing all aspects of school life with vigour, honesty and enthusiasm, that's what we must do ourselves."

Mr Kidd also expressed delight at national test results achieved by prep schools this year. Almost all the 9,500 11-year-olds at private schools achieved the required standard - 20 percentage points better than the national figure. More than half the private pupils achieved the standard normally expected of 14-year-olds.


Diego Maradona scored his "Hand of God" goal in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final between England and Argentina.

Video evidence confirmed what everyone but the referee had seen at the time: that he had scored with his hand. The ball landed in the back of the net and the goal was allowed. Argentina won the game and, at the post-match press call, Maradona further infuriated the English by claiming the goal was scored "a little bit by the hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona".

Martin Johnson, who captained the England rugby team to victory in the 2003 World Cup, was suspended from the game for three weeks in 2002 after punching an opponent in a league game for his club side, Leicester. On his return Johnson blamed the Rugby Football Union for making an example of him because of his position as England captain.

But he acknowledged a new strategy for avoiding further suspension. He said afterwards: "The key to it is not to get into any trouble at all."

Tonya Harding rocked the skating world when she was stripped of her US title and banned from US figure skating for life in 1994 for her role in an attack on a rival. Nancy Kerrigan was struck on the knee by a hitman hired by Harding's ex-husband. Harding went on to win the 1994 US champion-ships. But in the 1994 Winter Olympics she finished eighth and Kerrigan second.

Harding was later fined and banned after pleading guilty to hindering the police investigation into the attack on Kerrigan.

Mike Gatting was engulfed in one of cricket's greatest controversies during the 1987 England tour of Pakistan which will always be remembered for his bust-up with the Pakistani umpire, Shakoor Rana that resulted in the loss of a day's play. It began with allegations of cheating from both men. Rana refused to continue until Gatting apologised for his behaviour. The dispute nearly brought the tour to an end and was only resolved after the Foreign Office put pressure on the Test and County Cricket Board to make Gatting apologise.