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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 March, 2005, 14:52 GMT
TV football 'corrupts children'
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News education reporter at the SHA conference

Professional footballers set children a 'bad example'
Football should only be shown on TV after 9pm because of the bad example it sets to children, a leading head teacher has said.

Verbal abuse, cheating and violence among players are commonplace, Martin Ward, deputy leader of the Secondary Heads Association, claimed.

He said copycat behaviour by pupils made teaching "infinitely more difficult".

Mr Ward also called for heads working in difficult schools to be paid more

Loss of 'moral authority'

He told the SHA's annual conference in Brighton that broadcasters lost their "moral authority" when showing footballers' bad behaviour before the 9pm 'watershed' - after which programmes of a more violent or sexual nature, or containing swearing, are permitted.

Mr Ward said: "Violence, verbal abuse, foul language, cheating and defiance of authority occur sometimes in schools.

Violence, verbal abuse, foul language, cheating and defiance of authority...occur much more frequently outside school and, in particular, in professional football, often without the player even being cautioned
Martin Ward

"They occur much more frequently outside school and, in particular, in professional football, often without the player even being cautioned."

If football is not shown only after 9pm, then "not at all" would be better, Mr Ward argued.

Parental responsibilities

Salaries of 150,000 for head teachers dealing with the most "challenging" schools should be "commonplace" he said. The current maximum in England is 120,000.

Last week Tony Blair and Education Secretary Ruth Kelly demanded more parental involvement in running schools.

Agreements should be signed between them and head teachers, stating what pupils are entitled to, they said.

But Mr Ward argued there should be as much emphasis on the "responsibilities of parents to the school" as "the responsibilities of the schools towards parents".

'Whitehall milkman'

Schools were being overburdened with initiatives, with education "being kicked around like a political football", he warned.

In particular, plans for random drug-testing and on-the-spot penalties for truancy were criticised.

Mr Ward said: "The school milk delivery may have been abolished by Margaret Thatcher, but the Whitehall milkman still delivers these policies, almost daily, to the school doorstep.

"Fortunately, most schools have had the good sense to ignore many of them and, like milk on the doorstep, if you leave it long enough, it eventually goes off."

Addressing the SHA conference on Friday, Ms Kelly promised to deal with the 'initiative-isers' within the Department for Education and Skills.

Do you think foul play on the football pitch leads to bad behaviour in the classroom? Should professional footballers be subject to a television watershed? Tell us what you think with the form to the right.

Here are a few of the comments we have received already:

Mr Ward seems to be saying that it is acceptable for footballers to behave like thugs so long as school children do not witness it! It is not acceptable to witness cheating and thuggery when I want to watch football. Footballers should try watching professional snooker for a lesson in how to be ultra competitive, fair and honest. Football should change, not the followers of the sport.
Raymond Clements, N Ireland

OK, let's remove sport from the agenda and then reward heads for having bad schools. Great plan!
Wes Beaumont, Manchester.

The problem: lack of discipline: The reason: too many goody goodies. The solution: bring back the cane.
Nigel White, Orlando Florida

boys are clearly influenced by their football heroes
David, UK
I agree strongly with Mr Ward. I teach in an outer London suburb junior school. Many children, mainly boys, are clearly influenced by their football heroes and the atrocious behaviour of many footballers. The behaviour of many in the sport is helping to corrupt morals in society. Football needs to get itself together, particularly to stop the obvious winning by cheating and to instil respect for rules, the officials and other players.
David, UK

Why stop at football? Why not move the news till after the watershed? That shows much more violence. While you're at it, I feel it would be a good idea to ban the showing of Parliament on TV. The amount of childish jeering that goes on their surely can't be setting a good example for our children.
Andrew Britton, Kent

Classifying all footballers as hooligans is a little unfair, as is the idea of only showing football after the watershed. Children are exposed to language and actions like that every day in their local street, Mr Delaney is right when he says they are learning nothing new. I agree whole-heartedly with the punishments being dished out to players who are offensive and abusive on the pitch.
Nick Entwistle, UK

Perhaps the FA should be encouraged to take a tougher stance on player behaviour. The situation should be as it is in rugby league and rugby union. If you swear at an official or behave aggressively you are sent off. The players would soon learn what is acceptable, and as a result children's behaviour (at least on the football pitch) might also improve.
Noel Hunwick, UK

What is Mr Ward on about? Football is a part of British culture, what he is saying is ridiculous. I have been going to football since I was seven. Have my parents bought me up wrong?
Dan Fraser, UK

Where has the fun gone out of playing football?
Jon Smith, Southampton
As a coach who trains many age groups I sadly agree with Mr Ward. I try to maintain a high level of fair play with all my training sessions and games however it's hard to tell the kids to emulate their heroes when they see them swearing and fighting week in and week out. Sadly the modern game has higher stakes than the past which in turn has made the game more volatile. Where has the fun gone out of playing football?
Jon Smith, Southampton,

Violence, verbal abuse, foul language, cheating and defiance of authority? Shouldn't the news also be moved to after the watershed then?
James Glover, UK

Another example of using the popularity of football to gain publicity, particularly for the gain of himself and fellow school headmasters.
Steven Brown, UK

More should be done to make footballers behave themselves on the pitch. Rugby players generally seem to be more mature in their attitudes to the referee and each other. Why can't footballers do the same?
Andrew Grisdale, UK

And of course this will solve all societies problems because we all know that children are safely tucked up in bed by 9pm,and none of them have TV sets in their bedrooms either.
Neil, Durham

Football's no longer about sport, it's about money, attitude and here in the West of Scotland, about religious hatred and ignorance. I listen to the 5 year olds running around swearing and thinking it's cool. Parents need to be made more responsible for their children's actions and we need to stop shying away from criticising and start forcing them to accept that responsibility!
Gary, Glasgow

Football never has been a positive influence on British society whether it's the foul language and violence or the false Eng-er-land patriotism. This is a frequent factor of Sunday life for those kids whose parents take them out to play local league football, let alone the professional game.
James Freeman, Coulsdon,

Football to be moved to after the watershed! What over-protective nonsense - how on earth can this man be taken seriously?
Anton Verstraete, UK

As a PE teacher I expect and demand high standards of performance and behaviour. Any child failing to meet these standards would be substituted immediately regardless of any knock on effect that might have on the team result. The Football Association need to clamp down. Swearing at referees should not be acceptable behaviour. Yellow cards usually have the desired effect. Removing shirts has been stopped through the card system. Swearing and verbal abuse of the referee needs to follow suit!

anyone who thinks kids are learning new words from footballers needs their head examined
James, Canada
Mr Ward has absolutely no hope of having the people in television decide to delay the screening of a football match in order to save children from hearing and seeing things they already say and do. The fact is, anyone who thinks these kids are actually learning new words from footballers needs their head examined.

James Delaney, Canada

I watch football on the TV and I'm only 19. I have a full-time job, earning my way through a normal life and it doesn't do me any harm. If you say something's harming people, you need to think of why football is such a great sport and so many adults and children are followers and it gives them a career to look up to.
Mark Brierley, UK

Well let's attack the symptom and not the problem by all means. Any society that pays hooligans more than teachers gets what it pays for. We have the same problem in the USA, so don't worry you will soon be just like us, and I know that is just what you want.
William, Washington DC USA

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