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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Footballers behaving badly
The other aspects to consider:

Footballers have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks.

Serious criminal allegations and unsavoury tales depicting a lurid off-the-field lifestyle have brought their behaviour into sharp focus.

So has the time come for our high-profile stars to be brought into line? Do they need a reality check?

Here, we examine what lies behind the bad behaviour and get to the bottom of why footballers end up in trouble...

Why does it happen?
By Paul Fletcher

Highly-paid young footballers, with pampered lifestyles and celebrity status, are not the ideal group to win the nation's sympathy.

It is hard to escape the idea that players earning so much are compensated handsomely to ensure they behave in a manner that befits their status as role models.

But John Williams, director of the centre of football studies at the University of Leicester, argues that often footballers enter the public domain poorly equipped to deal with the pressures their high-profile profession inevitably brings.

It is hard for footballers to find a place in the world and they are insecure
John Williams, director,
centre for football studies

"The world is a dangerous place for footballers now," said Williams.

"People sometimes forget that footballers lack the social skills to deal with certain situations, all they see is the money players earn.

"They seem to forget that if a lot of these lads weren't professional footballers, a lot of them would have very ordinary, mundane lives.

"They are not extraordinary people, they are normal people who have been placed in an extraordinary situation."

Young players on generous Premiership contracts find themselves caught between the world they come from and the high-profile existence their footballing skills have bestowed upon them.

"They no longer fit in with their old mates, particularly if they are young English players, most of whom come from working class backgrounds.

"It is very difficult for them to keep old mates because of the sums of money they earn and the jealousies that come with it. Yet it is also difficult to move in other circles because socially they don't fit, don't have the right kinds of interests or social capital.

"They always fall between two stools. It is hard for them to find a place in the world and they are insecure."

This disorientating experience is often made worse if a player has left his home environment at an early age.

Crewe are famed for their youth academy, which has produced players such as David Platt, Danny Murphy and Rob Savage.

They have a policy of housing youngsters who come to the club on their youth scheme in homes with families.

Young footballers have little experience in life so their coping strategies are not very good
Cary Cooper, psychologist

"Relocating youngsters from outside the Crewe area can be a problem," said Mark Hughes, the club's education and welfare officer.

"It is club policy of keeping them in a home environment - that is probably where they are most comfortable.

"Some clubs might bring young players together in large groups and that is when the boredom factor might rear its head."

Footballers have a large amount of free time - ally this to a lack of education on how to manage their life and it is easy to see how problems occur.

"They have a lot of disposable time," said Cary Cooper, a professor of psychology at Umist. "But they are young people and have little experience in life so their coping strategies are not very good.

"Often they have moved away from their extended family and have no one around to mentor them. There are not enough clubs that have these kind of mentoring schemes in place."

Some clubs do not take sufficient responsibility for educating their players about dangers and responsibilities, yet on the other hand pamper them and hinder their development as human beings.

"A lot of young players are effectively de-skilled when they end up inside a football club, they don't really do anything for themselves, the club does everything for them," adds Williams.

Players do not get enough protection these days
Rachel Anderson, football agent
"The trouble is when these guys get to 18, 19, 20 - especially if they are on big money - they know nothing about the world and how to exist in it. They expect everything will be laid on a plate.

"Agents and clubs should show more responsibility and offer more support. The support systems are not very good, but sometimes the raw materials they work with are not very good either."

Agent Rachel Anderson agrees that her own profession is sometimes guilty of not helping players enough.

"Players do not get enough protection these days," said Anderson.

"The people that look after them, the agents, should have a duty of care to look after them, and not just when the deals are being done. They get a lot of help when transfers are going through, but that's about it.

"Unfortunately they are fair game, and a lot of people out there are looking at players and thinking this is where we're going to earn a lot of money."

And managers themselves must examine their own behaviour and the example they are setting.

"I think the managers in the game have a lot to answer for," adds Cooper.

"I think some of them encourage it by going out with their lads and viewing it as a good bonding exercise.

"What they don't see is that they are modelling the kind of behaviour that is wholly inappropriate and damaging for professional athletes."


Williams also believes that certain elements in the media are culpable for attacking the stars they have helped create.

"This is part of the coda of modern journalistic coverage," said Williams. "Journalists are very ill at ease in recognising their own role in producing this kind of culture."

Add to the mix the pressure to perform week in week out, as well as the problems of deciding who can be trusted, and it is clear footballers - especially the younger players - often inhabit a lonely and uncertain world.

Images of footballers abusing their privileged status do them few favours, and some players have nothing to blame for their bad behaviour but themselves.

But the image of wealth, glitz and good times often fails to tell the full story.

"I think it is a lonely world for some players and I don't think they feel safe in any places," says Williams.

"When they are exposed to the real world it hits them full in the face."

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