Ethos Education

Robert Green and the Club Chaplain: Can Christianity benefit the world of professional sport?

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Learning Objective:

  • Understand the role of religious organisations within leisure e.g. chaplains, Christians in Sport.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on the pressures faced by professional sports people.
  • Analyse Bible verses to understand why Christians believe these challenges occur.
  • Evaluate the benefit for a club of having a football chaplain.
  • Synthesise learning by applying Christian principles to the problems faced by high level sports people.


Ask the students to suggest reasons why the life of a top professional sports star might be particularly stressful. Write the suggested reasons up as they are made. Possible answers might include:

  • Media interest in their personal lives and resulting lack of privacy.
  • The temptation for licentious behaviour given by their high levels of fame and wealth.
  • Pressure of being a role-model to impressionable young fans.
  • Criticism of their on-field performance, from fans, media or both.
  • Fear of losing their career through serious injury.
  • Fear of losing their place in the team.

How do the students think that top sports men and women might deal with this variety of pressures? Given the vast sums of money that top sports stars are capable of earning and the adulation that they often receive, are the students surprised that scandalous news stories featuring sports stars are as common as they are? Do they think that sports stars are more exposed and vulnerable to temptation than most other people?

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about the role of Christians in professional sport, in particular looking at the increasing presence of clergy at football clubs in the role of club Chaplain.


Remind the students that in the 2010 World Cup England’s goalkeeper for their first match, Rob Green made a bad mistake which allowed the USA to score an equalising goal, and ultimately cost England victory. Newspapers blamed Green for the failure, with headlines describing his ‘howler’ as ‘the hand of Clod’. Green was dropped from the team as a result, and was subsequently left out of the England squad altogether. His form for his club side, West Ham United, was poor at the start of the following season, which led to more media criticism.

Give out copies of one of the following news stories about Green’s way of dealing with the pressure he was under after the World Cup:

Ask the students if they were surprised to hear that a professional footballer in Green’s situation would choose to spend time with a Christian pastor as a way of dealing with professional pressure.

Read the article about football chaplains (you might want to point out to the students that it is a very old article – first published in 1995 – so many of the references to individual players or managers are now out of date).

What do students think are the benefits or disadvantages of a football club employing a club chaplain?

Working in pairs or individually, ask the students to go through the article and make a list of the benefits it suggests a football club might gain from having a chaplain.

Explain that another Christian organisation which works in the world of sport on a professional to school and University level is Christians in Sport. They have a number of Christian professional sports people as members, but seek to support all Christians who enjoy playing sport. They have three aims: pray, play and say. For Christians to pray for their team-mates, to play in a way that glorifies God, so no cheating or bad attitudes, and to say something about Jesus Christ when the opportunity arises. There is more information on their webpage if students want to research further:

Ask the students whether they think that organisations like Christian in Sport, operating on a wider level than just the elite professional game, are a good or bad thing. Have any of the students had any experience of the work of organisations like this? How did they react, or how do they think they would react to such an organisation?


Get students to role play a number of scenarios in pairs as a football chaplain and a player. Scenarios could involve a player asked to take a bribe to let a goal in, a player struggling to be faithful to his wife when lots of female fans are pursuing him, a player who is being a poor team player because he is convinced he is more famous than anyone else in the squad. Useful Bible passages to reference are Exodus 20:1-17 and Galatians 5:19-26. The student playing the chaplain can also use prior learning from other lessons in this unit to advise the player. For this reason it may be best to assign characters according to ability.


  • A copy of one or more of the articles about Rob Green and Alan Bolding.
  • A copy of the 1995 Independent article about football club chaplains.

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