I agree with the assertion by a section of scholars that violent sporting behavior has been in the rise in recent years. Christopher Cushion and Robyn Jones, of the Sociology of Sport Journal, explain that Sports are guided by the principles of sportsmanship that are geared towards making sure that players understand how to treat each other and how to handle victory and failure. The dual explain that “social interaction lies at the heart of the coaching process Such dealings are not limited to isolated conversations between coach and athlete” (Cushion & Jones 142). It is through the coaching process that players are able to learn the expectations of their clubs, coaches, and the socio-cultural environment that surrounds them during matches. Despite the presence of highly paid coaches who spend lengthy periods with players during training and practice, more incidences of un-sportsmanly behaviors have continued to be evident in modern sports. This paper is going to narrow down to the world of soccer where various players have physically engaged in fights and some have resulted in the dismissal of players and other legal disciplinary actions. This paper will use the English Premier League as the case study of sports violence in soccer. The paper will outline some of the causative factors leading up to violent sporting behavior in the game of soccer, and some of the ways that such actions can be avoided and contained in the future.
First of all, it is important to understand the English Premier League is corporate oriented. Many domestic and foreign investors have made large investments in the clubs that constitute the English Premier League. These clubs attract players from all continents of the world. Club managers scout for players from all over the world in order to capture the best talent in their club, and at the same time expand their fan base because it is inherent that people support teams that might have players that are their fellow countrymen. The English Premier League has also signed players from the African continent, where most of the countries standards of soccer might not be at per with the standards of other nations around the world. This means that the English premier league is constitute of players from diverse races, creeds, and ethnicities. In the light of this, virtues such as discipline and team work are important for the success of these teams. However, it is important to understand that discipline is not only confined within the club that a player is signed to, but also with regards to how a player treats other players from rival teams.
The idea of team rivalry is caused by the competition that exists between teams for the winning of the league cup or other championships in the league. Some of the well-known rivalry is among the top five teams in the English Premier League such as Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester city. All these teams have quality players and therefore face uncertainty regarding which team is likely to win the English Premier League titles. Teams such as Manchester United and Arsenal have been perennial rivals for many years. Bearing in mind the competition that takes place among the various teams in the English Premier League, it is more likely that players are more likely to get upset in case their teams do not do well in various games and fixtures in the league. Players have the pressure of their managers, coaches, and fans to meet a given standard. Considering this pressure that is mounted on the players, doing well on the pitch because mandatory and something that players that have no choice over. Due to this game mentality, some players are not able to handle defeat or any accidents that might result on the pitch. There have been many cases in the soccer where players become very irritated when they are roughed up on the pitch while they are struggling to equalize a game or defend a win. In his article, Fan violence: Social problem or moral panic, Russell Ward writes that this social problem of violent sporting behavior is caused by the moral panic and obligation that players have towards their fans and clubs. Ward explains that “moral panic magnifies the importance of “we-group” versus “they-group” antagonisms in the creation and maintenance of player and fan violence” (Ward 453). A good example is the case of John Terry’s abuse on Anton Ferdinand where he called the young player ‘Choc Ice.” This statement was considered as being racist. John Terry got himself into trouble both in his club, in the courts, and also in the English National team. John Terry who was one of the most impressive players in England, who showed high level of maturity and leadership, was stripped off his title as the captain of the England Soccer Team and his position was given to Liverpool’s Steven Gerard. He underwent numerous court batters and sports tribunal over his remarks.
One thing that is important to bear in mind is that players are human beings. Despite the fact that they are viewed as goods on the soccer pitch that can generate lots of money for investors, the fact remains that players have feelings. Players will always react to statements that they are not comfortable with. Some players are more emotional than others. This is the reason why many players will react differently. There are those players that will result into physical fights when they feel insulted, other tend to play a game full of grudge and roughing up, while other will try and use the legal channel of fielding their concerns to the referees that are overseeing the game. The pressure on players to defend them and not appear cowardly on the field is also shaped by the person values and principles of players. There are those players who find it difficult to restrain themselves after a certain threshold of insult. A good example outside the English Premier League was the reaction of Zinedine Zidane of France during the 2006 world cup. Despite the fact that Zidane tried to control himself from being violent on the soccer pitch during the World Cup final, he found it difficult to let it go when he was insulted by Italy’s Marco Materazzi. According to Mark Ogden of the Telegraph Newspaper, this resulted in the infamous Zinedine Zidane headbutt on Materazzi that saw Zidane red-carded out of the game during the game.
Violence in the game of soccer is not only instigated by the pressure that players find themselves in while in the pitch , but it also stems from the fact that personal matters facing a player outside the pitch may at times be used against them by opponent players. For example, in the case of Chelsea’s John Terry, writes Robert Verkaik of the Independent, it is believed that his racist comment against Anton Ferdinand resulted from Ferdinand’s critic of Terry’s personal life of adultery that had begun to get into the public domain (Verkaik 1). This means that the bringing of personal matters regarding players into the pitch might at times spur player violence in the soccer pitch. Some players might provide great skills on the pitch, but might not lead upright lifestyles as individuals. It therefore becomes difficult to strike a balance between their personalities on the soccer pitch and their attitudes towards life outside the soccer pitch. In addition to the violation of personal principles as a cause of violence in the field of soccer, it is important to also understand that the English premier league is a prestigious platform for players.
Due to the public attention and the high wages that are associated with players in the premier league, players tend to have a sense of pride that causes them to forget about the necessary discipline that is important for their success. In their book, Handbook of Sports Studies, Coakley and Dunning explain that players tend to sometimes interpret some of the actions on the pitch are spurred by their successes or skill in the sport. For example, some players might interpret a foul committed against them by an opponent as a response to the number of goals that they have achieved in a season (Coakley& Dunning 383). Therefore the celebrity nature of some players in the English premier league is one of the causative agents of player violence and the disregard of the general code of ethics. A good example is the confrontation that ensued between Manchester City’s manager Roberto Mancini and Italian player Mario Balotelli after Balotelli was summoned by his manager over a visit to a strip club, which was degrading to the club (Clarke 1). Due to the large amount of money that Balotelli enjoys, he did not show any remorse towards his coach. The two had to be separated when it emerged that Balotelli slapped his own manager. This illustrates the high level of indiscipline and lack of morals that is evident among some of the players in the English Premier League after they have made fiscal successes in the league. For example, Mark Ogden of the Telegraph writes that Balotelli’s actions for example caused him to be fined an amount of 240,000 pounds.
Considering the various factors that lead to player violence in the field of soccer, it is important to look at some of the ways that such actions can be avoided and controlled in the future. First of all, it is important that clubs devise stringent rules and regulations that govern the code of behavior of their players. This means that clubs should have strict disciplinary actions against players that indulge in violence or any other related actions on the field. Disciplinary action should include tough actions such as a ban on the players for a period of time or even perpetual dismissal from their club. In addition, clubs in the English premier league should also have guidance and counseling sessions with their players. This step is meant to make sure that players are constantly reminded that they should carry themselves accordingly so as to preserve the reputations of their clubs. In addition, it is important that the English Premier league creates tribunals and legal mechanisms that are bestowed with the responsibility of making sure that a punitive expedition is executed on players that do not demonstrate sportsman behavior on the field of play. Players who exhibit actions of gross misconduct should not be allowed to play in any of the clubs in the English premier league upon dismissal from their clubs. This is because even after some players have been dropped from their clubs, other clubs are quick to sign up these players into their clubs. This illustrates that these clubs are not focused on the morals of the players, but are solely reliant on the skills that these plays bring in the field of play. Finally, there is need for the English premier league and other major leagues to partner with other soccer associations such as FIFA to see to it that these actions of hooliganism and violence in the field of soccer are contained. This partnership will help both national leagues and nations in general to prepare their players at an early stage about their behavioral expectations in the soccer pitch both at a club level and in their national teams.
Clarke, James . "Mario Balotelli and Roberto Mancini clash at Manchester City training session: in pictures - Telegraph." Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-city/9778185/Mario-Balotelli-and-Roberto-Mancini-clash-at-Manchester-City-training-session-in-pictures.html>.
Coakley, Jay J., and Eric Dunning. Handbook of sports studies. London: SAGE, 2000. Print.
Cushion, Christopher, and Robyn Jones. "Sociology of Sport Journal ." Sociology of Sport Journal 23.1 (2006): 142-161. Taylor & Francis. Web. 21 July 2013.
Ward, Russell. "Fan violence: Social problem or moral panic?" Aggression and Violent Behavior 7.5 (2005): 453-475. Science Direct. Web. 21 July 2013.
Verkaik, Robert. "Terry's 'affair' with team mate's girlfriend revealed - News & Comment - Football - The Independent." The Independent | News | UK and Worldwide News | Newspaper. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/terrys-affair-with-team-mates-girlfriend-revealed-1883649.html>.
Ogden, Mark . "Manchester City v Dynamo Kiev: Mario Balotelli to blame for Europa League exit says Roberto Mancini - Telegraph." Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-city/8389104/Manchester-City-v-Dynamo-Kiev-Mario-Balotelli-to-blame-for-Europa-League-exit-says-Roberto-Mancini.html>.
Ogden, Mark. "Zinedine Zidane's World Cup final headbutt on Marco Materazzi immortalised in France with 5-metre statue - Telegraph." Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/9570074/Zinedine-Zidanes-World-Cup-final-headbutt-on-Marco-Materazzi-immortalised-in-France-with-5-metre-statue.html>.