How important are ethics in sport?

DA McDonell Roar Rookie

By DA McDonell, DA McDonell is a Roar Rookie

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    Is there anything worse than diving in football? AP Photo/Jon Super

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    The fact of the matter is the sporting public are quite tolerant of poor conduct. Sadly, it takes much to make any significant change to behaviour.

    Many will modify behaviour. For example, it is not uncommon to support one player over another. Rarely it seems however does this translate into rejecting the sport itself.

    If correct, it suggests a disconnect between what people state as to the importance of ethics in sport and how it influences their behaviour.

    What is meant by ethics in sport?

    I am content to use the definition of ethics from the Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics, which is to the effect that that an ethical approach to sport relates to sportsmanship.

    Under this model, healthy competition is a means of cultivating personal honour, virtue and character. That the goal in sportsmanship is not simply to win, but to pursue victory with honour by giving one’s best effort.

    The definition draws the distinction from gamesmanship where winning above all else is the predominant aim.

    The approach refers to four key virtues being integrity, fairness, respect and responsibility.

    To elaborate, fairness is playing within the rules.

    Integrity is not playing within the ‘spirit’ of the game. Faking for fouls, strategic injury time outs or professional fouls are departures from how the sport ought to be played.

    Respect is for the sport, officials, and fellow players. Respect is to be demonstrated by coaches, administrators, parents and fans alike.

    Responsibility is ownership of conduct and actions. Whether it be governance, or inappropriate sponsorship for clubs or for individuals, it may be blaming officials for a loss or owning up to poor on or off-field conduct.

    Tolerance levels
    It is apparent there are varying levels of tolerance of such conduct.

    It is easy to state that taking performance-enhancing substances is totally unacceptable. Likewise racial vilification has no place in sport, or indeed anywhere. That while many regret the incidence of gambling dollars or alcohol sponsorship, there are sufficient examples of this occurring that it cannot be seen as an inhibitor for the majority of people.

    When it comes to sledging, abuse of officials or faking fouls, there are sports where this is an accepted part of the game. Consider soccer, cricket and tennis in this regard. It may not be admired, but it thrives. In various sports, coaches patrol the side-lines providing a running commentary often directed at the officials.

    If all of the stated virtues were considered sacrosanct, sport as we know it would not operate.

    So while we may say ethics in sport is important to us, when scrutinised, this may not be the case.

    The question is where on the ethical sports scale does each individual draw the line. It is a subjective issue. DA may be at the sensitive end of the scale, but this exercise has emphasised the DA tolerance level remains disconcertingly high.

    This is not intended to be an extremist position. There is nothing wrong with competition per se, or physicality where the sport requires it, or celebrating success. It makes allowances for characters, the odd brain fade or tantrum.

    It is however about taking a stand against corrupt, unsociable and unacceptable practices. About calling out those players who perennially exhibit poor and boorish behaviour.

    Seeking the sporting public’s view
    I am interested to determine if this is an isolated view. Whether there is any real appetite to take a stand against poor conduct, or whether it is considered a futile exercise.

    The majority of sports fans feel disempowered and lacking in influence. Much is blamed in the professionalism of sport. As a result there is a begrudging acceptance of poor behaviour.

    Are ethics in sport important to you?

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • October 8th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Buddy said | October 8th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Ethics in sport seems to be the realm of the amateur game these days and even then we see poor behaviour from many young teenagers who have most likely grown up learning from the professionals. At least in amateur spirt there are excellent examples of opposition players working cooperatively to elicit a correct decision in order to help the referee. We see genuine concern for injuries, applause and admiration for skills of opponents, and far less behaviour that is akin to cheating – feining fouls, injuries, trying to influence match officials to produce yellow or red cards. However, it is not across the board by any means and I’d suggest it will get worse as the influence of the professional game broadens. We regularly hear that it is ‘due to the money” or “the stakes” but I can’t help thinking that if the governing bodies really wanted to, they are quite capable of retutning to the days of good sportsmanship and ethical play. Trouble is the governing bodies need overhauling in the first place.

    • October 8th 2017 @ 11:38am
      pacman said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

      Governing sports bodies can play a role in establishing ethical behaviour, but for some reason appear reluctant to take action. Buddy identifies what I see as a recently established unethical practice, namely “trying to influence match officials to produce yellow or red cards”. Why is this permitted by match officials? Surely it comes within the bounds of ungentlemanly conduct? I am waiting for the day when a referee issues a card to the agent provocateur.

      Another blight on the game is diving, but I notice that referees are becoming more active, apparently following instructions from head office, in combatting this type of unethical behaviour. An offence which, admittedly, is sometimes difficult to identify.

      Then we have the time wasting injuries. A simple solution here, but will FIFA ever introduce it? A mandatory 5 minute medical assessment period for any player who leaves the field due to injury. All to do with duty of care, one would think.

      Introduce such a rule, and the incidence of stoppages due to injuries would diminish overnight. It is all very well for a player to receive treatment, hobble to the sideline, and then be readmitted to the field of play within seconds, and suprisingly, as good as new! But an enforced absence of 5 minutes would be an entirely different matter.

      Next, we have the coaches on the sideline who, if one didn’t know better, could be mistaken for escapees from an institution housing the deranged! Sit down and be quiet! If your players do not know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, then there is something seriously amiss with the training regime.

      Unfortunately unethical behaviour is accepted by the average fan and the average TV viewer. It all adds to the drama and atmosphere. So, realistically, there is little chance of the governing bodies doing their jobs and clamping down on unethical and inappropriate behaviour.

    • October 8th 2017 @ 3:43pm
      northerner said | October 8th 2017 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

      I think we’d all like to believe in a world where ethics in sport (or indeed in almost any other venture you care to name) mattered, but the reality is that it’s winning, not losing graciously, that seems to count. Professional sports are, after all, just another branch of the business world, and winning, by whatever means, brings in the dollars.

      The globalisation of sports hasn’t helped either: rich pickings out there for the global brands and for the organizations that run some of the biggest sports – IOC, FIFA, ICC, ICU and on and on – none of them what I would describe as models of honesty or integrity. Big clubs owned by businessmen with murky backgrounds. Vast gambling empires of dubious morals and questionable connections. The whiff of money-laundering and bribery of match officials and players in the air. Entire governments subverting drug testing regimens and paying bribes to host events.

      So, when you have corruption at the top, it’s hardly surprising that the lower levels take whatever they can get by fair means or foul as well – be it diving or bribing refs or using PEDs or providing inside info to the bookies.

      And then of course, there’s a certain level of hypocrisy among the punters as well. Your team/sport/code has widespread ethical issues, mine just has a few bad apples.

      Should ethics matter? Absolutely. Do they? Not so much.

    • October 9th 2017 @ 8:34am
      Nemesis said | October 9th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton

      Before we lament the decline of ethics in sport, let’s concern ourselves with the decline of ethics across all parts of life.

      People take kickbacks in every business. From CEOs of blue chip companies (bankers, miners, retailers, etc etc), to GPs, surgeons, barristers, politicians, local councilors, police, magistrates, judges, tradesmen, etc etc.

      Don’t be so naïve to think sport – particularly decision-makers in sports administration who are negotiating huge contracts – will be sheltered from such behavior.

    • Roar Pro

      October 9th 2017 @ 11:08pm
      albatross said | October 9th 2017 @ 11:08pm | ! Report

      Ethics? That’s that county cricket club that comes from just outside London, innit?

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