TV urged to tackle foul-mouthed footballers

26/08/2008 01:14

Andy Wood spent yesterday morning watching football on television with his two young sons as he does every week before taking his them for a kick-about in the local park.

But if Martin Ward, the deputy general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association had his way, Mr Wood's sons, Zach, 3, and Abe, 1, would have to stay up hours after their bedtime to watch the game.

Speaking at the union's annual conference in Brighton yesterday, Mr Ward claimed footballers' televised violence, bad language and defiance of authority had a detrimental effect on children's behaviour.

Schools have an "infinitely more difficult" job to enforce discipline when famous players go unpunished for swearing at referees, he said. He accused broadcasters of losing their "moral authority" when showing footballers' bad behaviour before the 9pm watershed.

His call for football to be screened after 9pm sparked a debate on whether the unruly antics of sporting heroes was undermining the authority of teachers.

His comments follow the outburst by Wayne Rooney against the referee, Graham Poll, last month during a match between Manchester United and Arsenal, in which commentators estimated Rooney swore 100 times.

But the BBC, which screens live matches in Match of the Day, was intransigent in its defence, and felt it was not the broadcaster's responsibility to censor action on the pitch.

Peter Salmon, BBC Director of Sport, said: "It is clearly a ridiculous idea that would affect the future of live broadcasting as we know it."

Many who oppose a post-watershed rule say the occasional bout of bad behaviour is an aberration rather than a regular occurrence.

For Mr Wood, 41, a city consultant from south London, this approach would be heavy-handed. "My children love watching the game, and football was one of their first words. I don't think you can protect children from swear words and anyway, it is not the language that worries me but the behaviour.

Ed Stobart regularly takes his son, Jed, 3, to the terraces at Crystal Palace. He takes headphones for Jed if the sound system becomes too overwhelming. But they also protect him against unruly moments on the pitch.

As a television producer and director, he said any move of football games to evening viewing would be unnecessarily censorious.


Everton v Blackburn, Goodison Park, kick-off 4.05pm yesterday

3 minutes: Garry Flitcroft, far right, of Blackburn, opens proceedings by saying "You're having a fucking laugh" to referee Phil Dowd, after a foul is given against him

9: Marcus Bent, the Everton striker, levels things by muttering "fucking hell" after trying, and failing, to get a colleague's attention

19: Alessandro Pistone, of Everton, shoots over and utters curses, but he is Italian, so they won't be understood by most viewers

27: Bent, now on a roll, feels he was fouled but gains no decision, so he turns to the assistant referee and shouts "fuck off"

31: Much nicer manners from Everton's Lee Carsley as he disputes a foul given against him - he says "don't be stupid" as he retreats from the offence

48: David Thompson, of Blackburn, utters "fuck" to himself after missing a good chance to score

61: Still keeping his comments in Italian, Pistone wags an admonishing finger at the referee for a perceived slight

62: Aaron Mokoena, Blackburn's South African defender, gives away a foul and is angry. He throws the ball away, which is a yellow card offence. As soon as he sees the referee approach to caution him, he yells "fucking hell"

72: Blackburn's John Stead scores the only goal of the game

77: David Thompson, after wasting a good chance, shouts "fucking bitch" (or possibly "pitch") as he rues the miss from a tight angle

79: Everton's Tim Cahill, an Australian, reverts to the familiar vernacular, with a "fuck's sake" in the direction of the referee who is just about to book him

84: David Thompson fouls an Everton player and receives a blunt insult from a fan. The young teenager, in Everton colours, and perhaps 15 years of age, shouts "cunt" at the top of his voice from a few rows back

Final score:

Blackburn 4, Everton 3 (Crowd 1)

Analysis by Simon Ricketts