Published 15 May 2010

Sport, to a great degree, also reflects society – good and bad.

The Duke of Cambridge

Sport lies at the very heart of our national culture. It doesn’t matter what it is - snooker; cycling; cricket; football - whether a kick about in the park on a Sunday morning, or at a great occasion such as this. Competitive sport, perhaps more than anything else in modern Britain, arouses people’s passions. It influences our daily lives - influences even the way we think about ourselves as a Nation. Pride in our moments of victory, good grace on those – hopefully, rare - moments of defeat. Sport, and the way we play the game, is hugely important. It shapes our society.

But sport, to a great degree, also reflects society – good and bad. For all its benefits, when aggression becomes brutality, when passion becomes disrespect for opponents, when the rules of the game and the principles of sportsmanship become obstacles to be bulldozed, sport can become detrimental to the individual and to society. In other words, sport ceases to be sport.

So, unfashionable as the word may sound, sportsmanship underpins everything good and worthwhile about our national game. What is so important about these Respect and Fair Play Awards is that they acknowledge and reward those who play fair and encourage fair play – true sportsmen and women. Everything about why I wanted to become President of the Football Association is encapsulated by what these winners this afternoon represent. And I would add, that, whilst I remain President of the FA, promoting sportsmanship and stamping out the deplorable scenes that have blighted our game in the past, will be my goal.

 These Awards recognise how, at every level within the Football Association – but especially out there at the grass roots - these issues are being taken very seriously and are producing results. There is much to do – especially in ensuring that our top players provide proper sporting role models - but our Award winners today are showing us the way. Like all of you here this afternoon for the FA Cup, and the hundreds of millions watching on television around the globe, I’m very excited about the prospect of what should be a fair and hard fought contest, played in the best sporting traditions of the world’s oldest and most famous domestic competition.

To all the Award winners and nominees of this first Respect and Fair Play Awards, congratulations! You make this the greatest game on earth.