It was announced this week that Adrian Sutil, the Formula One driver, had received an 18month suspended sentence and a €200,000 fine after he assaulted a member of the Force India team for which he was a driver. Furthermore, it has been calculated that due to the on-going conflict between the footballer Carlos Tevez and the staff at Manchester City football club he has in effect lost £9.3 million from both the halting of his wages and the loyalty bonuses he would have been privy to.
In the last football season alone, there have been 2 major incidents of alleged racism by players during a football match ending in one player being banned for 8 matches whilst another is now enduring criminal investigation. Although football and its players are and always have been somewhat surrounded by various controversies on and off the pitch, it isn’t the only sport which has been shrouded in negative incidents.
Several Pakistani cricketers were secretly videotaped by News of the World reporters during the 2010 Test series against England, accepting money and informing them how players were willing to deliberately bowl no balls at certain points of the match. This led to prison sentences for four players ranging from 6 months to 32 months.
All of the aforementioned incidents surely have implications for the integrity of the sports these individuals represent, but what is the general public’s opinion of sport’s stars themselves and the talent pool they represent?
Our survey used a 1000 nationally representative sample and asked a selection of questions from, how good an example respondents believed various ‘talent based professions’ set to children, to which profession portrays the worst image.
- Results showed that out of a choice of singer, actor/actress or a sports star the most frequently chosen answer option as to what they would like to be famous for was actor/actress (38%).
- Although the order of most chosen profession remained the same for when respondents were asked to think about their childhood, there was an increased respondent number for the ‘sports star’ option, totalling an increase of 4% i.e. more people wanted to be a sports star when they were younger than now.
This could potentially suggest that as people get older, or grow up, they are less inclined to aspire to be a sports star, which could be down to the influence of the image portrayed by those who are already part of that profession.
- Perhaps most shockingly, 75.8%of respondents stated that footballers portray the worst image to the general public in comparison with other ‘talent based professions’ such as actors,singers, formula 1 drivers and cricketers.
- Respondents were also asked to rate, for a list of ‘talent based professions’, what kind of example they set for children. Whilst the majority of people chose ‘neither good nor bad’ for the different professions, football again came worse off with 60.3% choosing ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’.
- In addition, the profession which was deemed to set the best example was tennis. 41.4% of respondents claimed tennis players set a ‘good’ example to children with a further 9.6% going as far as to say they set a ‘very good’ example.
- 30.4% stated that they believed actors and actresses to set a ‘good’ example to children in comparison to just 10% who picked the same answer option for footballers. This is perhaps of particular interest due to the fact that individuals from both these professions are constantly scrutinised in the media.
It seems apparent that even though football is not alone in being involved in controversial and even criminal issues, the problems that have been associated with football have had far more of a negative influence on the general public’s opinion of the sport and its players than others. Perhaps this can somewhat be explained by the relationship between football and the press and the large amount of coverage that both football players and their spouses receive in this country in comparison to other sports.
Nevertheless, when comparing with the acting profession it can be argued that the two usually receive an equal amount of press coverage both good and bad. It seems not a day goes by without an article discussing the latest actor who has ‘fallen off the wagon’ or behaved badly somewhere. Yet this seems to not negatively influence peoples’ perception of the profession to the degree that it does with footballers, something which is illustrated in the two word clouds within this blog post.