British children 'ungracious losers'

Good sportsmanship was traditionally defined as being humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Now, ideals of fair play are being inverted on sports pitches countrywide, with children throwing tantrums, sulking and swearing when victory eludes them.

Two-fifths of parents said they have seen their children sulking after losing, while 20 per cent said their son or daughter had cried, according to a poll by the Cricket Foundation and the MCC.

Some 13 per cent had witnessed their children storming off – and 5 per cent saw them throw a piece of sports equipment. Just 17 per cent of parents thought their children were always gracious in defeat.

Parents may not be setting a good example themselves, the poll suggests. More than half of parents, at 51 per cent, believe we are a nation of "bad losers", echoing the comments of the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, after England failed in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup last year.

Nearly two-fifths of those polled said they had seen other parents mocking the opposition, while 38 per cent had witnessed foul and abusive language being used towards match officials.

The cricketer Andrew Strauss said: "The spirit of cricket is about playing the game hard and trying to win – but doing it fairly. I think that's a good lesson for life."

The survey questioned 1,008 parents of eight to 16-year-olds.

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