Sport & Connected Communities

When did footballer players become role models?

We’ve carried out a very basic content analysis of the UK press to try and see when the idea that football players are role models began to develop. Using Nexis software we searched all reports in UK national newspapers that featured the words ‘f’ootball’ and ‘role models’ at least three times. These are the results;

2015 – 84        2014 – 172           2013 – 70

2012 – 74        2011 – 55             2010 – 49

2009 – 18       2005 – 34           2000 – 5

1995 – 5

It’s a fairly steady upward curve with the notable exception of 2005 (for the record 2004 had 7 reports and 2007 17) – we’re still pondering what might have caused this spike. Initially we thought it might have been connected with the death of George Best but not many of these reports used the term ‘role model’. We were also wondering if the appointment of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea might have impacted on the figures but there doesn’t seem to be too much evidence for this either. We’ll keep working on it and post again when we have a better idea!

However, what we can say is that mentions of footballer players as role models has been growing steadily over the past decade with 2014 being something of a landmark year – here, the Ched Evans case is likely to have prompted much of this debate. As we move into the new season, 2015 is already looking very likely to hit three figures. We’ll be doing some further research around this topic and trying to answering the all important question of why professional football players are increasingly discussed as role models for young people, at least by those who write for the UK press.