Athletes as role models

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
December 05, 2011, 2:11 PM GMT+0

34% of Britons choose athletes as best role models for young people, only 3% pick footballers from list

Just over a third of the British public think that professional athletes are the best role models for young people, our poll listing several sports has found.

From our list of sportspeople, tennis players were chosen as the second best role models in sport, ahead of cricketers and rugby players, while footballers were the least popular option from our list. However, almost a third of people felt that none of those listed fit the bill.

  • Just over a third (34%) of people chose athletes as the best role models in sport for young people
  • Compared to just over one in ten (13%) who feel that tennis players are best
  • 7% say cricketers, putting them in third place
  • Followed by rugby players on 4%
  • And footballers last on 3%
  • Nearly three in ten (29%), however, say that none of the sports listed offered good role models

On- and off-pitch conduct

Sports stars’ perceived responsibility to behave well both on and off the pitch has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months as footballers, rugby players and cricketing stars have faced personal scandals and accusations of unprofessional behaviour.

From the former Pakistan cricketers found guilty of match-fixing, infidelity scandals among players such as John Terry, to England’s disappointing performance in the Rugby World Cup, the role that sportspeople should play and the responsibilities they are deemed to hold have been of much public debate, especially in cases where players have faced demotion or suspension from squads as a result of their off-pitch behaviour.

‘Truly world class athletes’

Seen to embody sportsmanship, fair play, healthy living and teamwork, sports stars are often held up by the media as role models for young people, especially as the nation gears itself up for this summer’s 2012 Olympics.

Widely lauded from the Great British team include diving sensation Tom Daley, gold medallist swimmer Rebecca Adlington, rising triathlete stars the Brownlee brothers and triple-jump champion Phillips Idowu, to name but a few, while star athlete Kelly Holmes is one of the well-known sportspeople to get involved in mentoring young people in sports in recent years. Cyclist Chris Hoy has also used his high profile to promote healthy eating and the importance of sport in people’s lives.

A spokesman for the British Olympic Association has commented on British athletes in the public eye, saying that ‘It is great to see a strong level of interest in British athletes across such a wide variety of Olympic sports’.

London 2012, he added, presents a rare opportunity for sports like diving and triathlon ‘to capitalise on the opportunity to showcase their sport’ and ‘increase participation and support across the UK’.

The presence of ‘truly world class athletes will certainly help to achieve this’, he said.

See the survey details and full results here (pg 11)