Leading article: Bad sport

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The Independent Online

Perhaps selling off all those school playing fields isn't such a bad thing after all, considering the moral degeneracy they breed. That, at least, is the implication of a study by the Marylebone Cricket Club which finds that more than half of children witness unfair play on school pitches, from the faking of injury, to elbowing opponents, to arguing with the referee.

It would be tempting to blame diving footballers, drug-taking athletes, batsmen who refuse to walk and all the other villains of top-level sport for the poor example they set to the nation's youth. It would be tempting, too, to search for a root cause in the growing pressure on children to excel on the sports field from pushy and amoral parents.

Yet we can't help wondering if there was ever a Corinthian age in school sports, a time when skul- duggery was entirely absent from our playing fields. Just as there will always be a division between children who relish sport and those who abhor it, there will always be those who take a somewhat Machiavellian attitude to the rules. The solution is not moral panic, but discipline. Ten laps of the field will generally be sufficient to instil some morality into even the most degenerate of our budding sporting stars.