Monday, 2 November 2009

Should footballers have a code of conduct?

After the footballer Marlon King was sentenced last week to an 18 month jail term for attacking and sexually assaulting a 20 year old women. There's been calls for him to be banned from football for life. Spending time in prison shouldn't automatically mean that a person can't resume their chosen profession, but I've started to think about whether footballers should have some kind of written code of conduct in terms of their personal and professional behaviour?

Sanctions can be imposed upon footballers relating to their conduct on a football pitch. Players can miss games through suspension if they pick up too many yellow cards or receive a red card for a sending off offence.

I was wondering whether it would be possible for players to be banned from playing as a result of their own conduct outside the game? Should players receive an automatic suspension from the game if they receive a criminal conviction?

When you have incidents of bad behaviour from players, people argue that footballers are role models and should be setting a better example for people. If this is the case, why shouldn't players be banned or suspended from the game if their personal conduct undermines public perceptions of professional football?

I've started thinking about this as I work in the world of medical regulation. For the most part regulating doctors, and more recently a diverse range of health professionals.

In my experience, doctors and other health professionals can be 'struck off' and prevented from practising, if their personal conduct outside of a professional setting falls short of the standards of conduct and performance set out by the regulators.

Could we ever have a situation where footballers are 'struck off' and banned from playing the game because of their personal conduct?

At the moment each individual football team can take their own actions regarding the disciplining of players. Wigan have already announced that they have sacked King, but they still signed him knowing that he had a string of previous convictions . A list so long, you wonder how he hadn't spent more time in prison.

On his release any club will be entitled to sign King. Most clubs particularly Premier League ones wont touch him, but there will be someone out there interested. Under my proposals, nobody would be able to sign him, until his suspension or 'striking off' had be removed.

From what I know, footballers have registrations which are held by their clubs. I know it's unlikely, but maybe the FA, the Premier League and clubs could all agree that a player's registration will be removed or suspended for a period should a player be found guilty of misconduct as a result of an off the field incident.

In the case of someone like Marlon King, once he's released he'd have to demonstrate and explain why he should be allowed to play again. I suppose it would be like parole board meeting. If it was decided that he should be allowed to resume his career then clubs interested in signing him could make their interest known.

To be honest I'm not sure whether any of this could ever really be implemented by any of football's governing bodies and interest groups. But I do believe that some footballers and it's usually a minority, need to take more responsibly for their own actions and conduct away from the pitch and realize the significance and consequences their actions have on their clubs and the professional game in general.

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