Footballers make adultery seem normal to boys
Children are growing up thinking that marriages are not meant to last because so many professional footballers have high profile affairs, experts have warned.
England internationals such as John Terry and Wayne Rooney, whose alleged infidelity was reported in the tabloid press, are role models for millions of teenage boys, according to Reg Bailey, who is leading a British government review of the sexualisation of childhood.
He raised concerns that the actions of pop musicians and footballers may be creating “norms” in behaviour for children and indicated that his review for the Department for Education would consider the issue.
Mr Bailey’s concerns were echoed by Relate, the relationships support group, which offered to work with the Football Association to help limit the damage that footballers’ infidelity will have on the future marriages of millions of fans.
Reports in tabloid newspapers claimed that Rooney had used a prostitute while his wife was pregnant. Just months before England's doomed World Cup campaign in the summer, it was alleged that Terry had an affair with the girlfriend of his England team-mate Wayne Bridge.
Mr Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, a charity, is undertaking a wider review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of children for the government.
He told The Daily Telegraph that sportsmen and women had a clear influence on children’s behaviour and ideas of what was acceptable.
“I think there is a fair body of evidence out there that suggests that children are very influenced by certain individuals, particularly those in the public eye, a great deal, whether they be pop stars or sports people.
“One area that we will want to look at is where this influence comes from, what signals do children pick up from an early age and that will include role models.
“The sexualisation of children is clearly a concern. Many people simply associate that with girls. I don’t think it is. It impacts both boys and girls and the review will take account of that.
“Undoubtedly behaviour of people in the public eye has an influence on the way children and young adults see the way forward. It does have an influence on children and the way that we see norms developing from that. The review will certainly look at the whole culture of celebrity influence on children’s behaviour patterns.”
He suggested that any reforms would need to help parents “feel more confident” and equipped to deal with the pressures from celebrity coverage in the media on their children.
Jamie Murdoch, Children and Young People Development Manager at Relate, said he feared many footballers had little idea that their infidelities could be influencing children who see them as role models.
“Actions have consequences and young people are growing up in a media-influenced culture where they perceive that having an affair is normal and a marriage that lasts is something which even many successful people can’t aspire to,” he said.
“But what is of most concern to Relate is the normalisation of infidelity as a consequence of footballers’ activities.
“Celebrity and football culture and its portrayal in the media, could already be having an impact on future relationships and we need to tackle this problem head on.”
He said Relate wanted to understand “why affairs and relationship breakdown are so common within professional football” and called on the FA and professional clubs to work with the group “to create more stable and supportive environments for families”.