Dear Telegraph Sport,

Health and wellbeing is now central to the policies of Central and Welsh Government, written into both the Environment Act and Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in Wales. Central to health and wellbeing is recreational activity, and central to this is sport. It always has been and hopefully always will be.

The provision of opportunities for our young people to participate in competitive and non-competitive sports is something we all want to see. Young people in Pembrokeshire benefit greatly from the work of numerous volunteers to organise, fund and officiate over a vast range of sports.

Why is it then that so many of those involved feel it is necessary and acceptable to freely denigrate those volunteers? In what other walk of life is it deemed acceptable to hurl vitriolic abuse at people who give freely of their time for the benefit of others? Tackling the issues raised by these questions is imperative if sport is to continue to provide a positive environment for young people.

Do I speak as a paragon of virtue on this issue? No, I do not. To do so would be arrogant and churlish.

With reference to Rugby, Football and Cricket, the sports I understand, every governing body issues a Code of Conduct. In each case this Code sets out the behaviours expected across all those involved. Primacy rests with member clubs in the first instance for enforcing these codes.

Why then is it that week in week out at sports venues across our county, these Codes are afforded such irrelevance by parents and supporters? Do we consider these Codes an inconvenience? Evidence certainly supports this hypothesis. May I suggest this is due to a ‘win at all costs’ culture in junior sport? Controversial maybe but almost certainly true!

Recreational sport is for recreation. In every sport it is underpinned by the objectives of participation, enjoyment and development. That is development of sporting and social skills, discipline and respect. No more so than in junior sport.

As parents, how can we expect our children to develop discipline and respect when week in week out they witness us hurling vitriolic abuse at players, coaches, referees and other supporters?

For every governing body it should be essential that each member club is able to demonstrate action to enforce these Codes. For every member club it should be essential that they are able to demonstrate all those involved are aware of the Codes and where these are breached that action is taken. And at the root of the issue, it is absolutely essential that everyone involved takes full responsibility for their actions and asks themselves some questions. Why am I taking my child to recreational sport activities? What kind of experience do I want my child to have? In terms of my own behaviours am I providing a suitable role model to my child?

The old sporting adage ‘chopsing’ is now so prevalent in junior sport as to be almost irreversible. Are most young players ‘chopsy’ or are they simply mimicking their parents? Food for thought!

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Willington.

  • Telegraph Sport would like to clarify that the original picture used with this article, of a junior side in Pembrokeshire, was not connected to the letter or the contents itself. It was a picture taken from out junior sport archive to accompany the letter, and the opinions expressed were in no way a reflection of the behaviour of the team originally pictured. Telegraph Sport apologises for any misunderstanding and inconvenience caused.