CUT OUT THE SWEARING OR YOU'RE FINED; EXCLUSIVE Government threat to superstars.
SOCCER bosses are to be ordered to control their foul-mouthed and thuggish superstars - or face hefty Government fines.
Sports minister Richard Caborn will tell Premiership managers and chairmen that their players must present a better image to the millions of youngsters who regard them as role models.
They will be told that if they cannot control the thugs, cheats, divers and swearers, the Government will consider imposing heavy fines and give the resulting cash to youth groups.
Mr Caborn will tell the House of Commons this week that football clubs have not made any response to his appeal last year to voluntarily clean up the game.
His appeal was made after the Sunday Mercury revealed that the English Schools Football Association, based in Staff.ord, had dropped Wayne Rooney as guest of honour at a kids' soccer tournament.
Organisers decided to ditch the England and Manchester Utd striker because of his swearing on the pitch.
Midland MP Graham Allen has tabled the Commons debate about the conduct of footballers who often shower referees with foul language and physically intimidate them.
"This teaches youngsters that if you reject a decision by someone in authority then it is acceptable to berate or intimidate them to get that decision changed," he said.
"There is a public thirst for those footballers who are in the public eye to devote time to showing youngsters that football isn't about immature, spoilt behaviour and making money.
"We need to demonstrate that football is about teamwork, honesty and fairness - as it is for most of the 7,000 football clubs in England.
"How can we expect youngsters to learn the values of hard work and honesty when they see their idols grinning after their latest con, or disguising petulance and poor sportsmanship as 'attitude'.
"Young men, especially those with absent fathers, crave role models. Like it or not, footballers often meet that need."
Off-the-field conduct of players was also important, said Mr Allen, Labour MP for Nottingham North.
"There is a massive amount of money in the game," he said., "Some of it should be levied to educate players and staff..
"More pressure must be put on clubs to enforce better behaviour, either contractually or through a code of conduct which offers incentives for good behaviour.
"A greater sense of duty must be instilled into players."
I What do YOU think?
I SHOULD the Government fine I soccer yobs? Or should foot-I ball put its own house in order? Write to Foul Play, Sunday Mercury Letters, I Weaman Street, Birmingham
B4 6AY or e-mail SundayMercury@mrn.co.uk
HERO: England striker Wayne Rooney