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Charlie Webster - Bad behaviour in football reaches new heights

Published: 11 Mar 2011 - 09:50:34

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there have been a large number of aggressive and violent incidents in football recently, even more than normal. And I'm not just talking about two-footed tackles but elbows and punch-ups on the field that you'd be arrested for on the street.

To name just a few - the recent Old Firm game with Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist getting pulled apar, the injury time brawl at Macclesfield Town, Wayne Rooney's elbow that has a mind of it's own and Ashley Cole who needs to get a mind of his own and his new 'rifle' best friend.

In addition, the way that players behave towards the referee seems to be getting beyond a joke. I find it embarrassing watching how some of them behave, shouting at the ref, grabbing his arm and even trying to put cards back in his pocket.

Are there different rules of respect on the pitch than off the field? Or is it just that football players are above the law, above respect? What has happened to the FA's respect campaign? I'm curious about where it's disappeared to.If anybody happens to find it could you please remind the FA about it?

On Monday, inbetween filming, I was sat chatting to the boxers in Sky's up and coming prizefighter. Liverpool v Manchester United was on in the background and as you can imagine a few insults were flying around, mainly directed at Nani actually. But then the banter changed into discussions about the way the players were treating the referee. "Look at the way they are behaving toward the referee" and "that's disgusting" being among the sort of things said. 

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Before I go any further I should point out that the boxers are all avid football fans too. Then, interestingly, one of the guys piped up and straight as they come said: "In boxing you would never ever see that kind of behaviour towards the referee. It's all about respect." How very true. So why in football is this still allowed to happen? I don't understand it myself.

If you look at the way football players are treated - worshipped by the fans and paid obscene amounts of mone - does this mean that inside their own heads they think they are invincible? Do they believe their 'status' gives them a divine right to behave however they want?

Is good football being outweighed by bad behaviour? I have to admit that like the rest of us, I do find the odd brawl quite funny but come on it's getting a bit boring now. I want to watch players with skill, determination and passion, not footballers rolling around on the pitch, starting on each other and harassing the referee who is desperately trying to do his job.

However maybe that's just football all along. After all, footballers are performers, entertainers and naturally inclined to be temperamental. They have huge pressure on them from the media, their clubs, their country and the fans so maybe a bit of leeway for prima donna antics should be allowed? No, it's not working. I'm not convincing myself here. I'm sorry but I still think players can show respect as well as release their emotion and changeable temperament.

It's nothing new of course. My favourite example of downright disgraceful on field behaviour is the 1962 World Cup group match between hosts Chile and Italy. The first foul was committed after 13 seconds. Italy's Giorgio Ferrini was sent off in the 12th minute, he had to be dragged off by policemen.

Mario David was sent off for kicking Leonel Sanchez in the head. Humberto Maschio had his nose broken by an opposing player. Chile eventually won 2-0, finishing with 11 men against nine. There are sadly plenty of examples like that but let's not go back to the old reputation of hooliganism.

I think from now on we should take a leaf out of Spanish referee, Jose Manuel Barro Escandón's book. He sent off 19 players in a regional first division match after a fight broke out and a mass brawl started. Ok maybe that's a bit far fetched but it would certainly start making players think twice and something would have to give.

Just a thought, I wonder if any players actually watch their behaviour back on TV? Perhaps they should.DSG

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Charlie Webster is one of the brightest young female sports presenters around. Charlie currently reports for BBC’s Football Focus and is an established presenter for Sky Sports. Prior to this she presented live Premiership football for ESPN in Asia, and was the face of Real Madrid TV, interviewing the likes of Zidane, Beckham and Casillas. Charlie’s love for sport has taken her all across the world. She ran her first marathon in Singapore in 2006, and since then has competed in five more, raising thousands of pounds for good causes including the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research and Women’s Aid UK. A fanatical Sheffield United fan, Charlie’s blog will present an insight into football that is rarely explored; from a woman’s perspective! She will be giving her expert opinion on the Premier League, covering all topics on and off the pitch. Follow Charlie on Twitter @CharlieCW.

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