London - QPR captain Joey Barton has hit out at double standards in the treatment of sports stars, claiming there would have been "public executions" had the England football team behaved like their rugby union counterparts at the World Cup.
England's campaign in New Zealand was overshadowed by controversy before and after their quarter-final exit, with players criticised for their off-field behaviour.
And colourful midfielder Barton, who has one international cap, told the Professional Players Federation national conference on Monday: "If that was an England football team at a World Cup, there would probably have been public executions when they got home.
"'Football's a gentleman's game played by thugs', I hear quite a lot, and, 'rugby's a thug's game played by gentlemen'.
"The minute a footballer steps out of line, I think the media in this country - because of the sums of money they earn and also because of the stigma attached - are really quick to jump on it."
Barton also took issue with footballers' status as role models.
"There is a lot of envy about what footballers earn, the astronomical figures," he said. "That's not our fault.
"I went from being on 300 (pounds) a week playing in a big league to 6 500 a week.
"No-one taught me how to handle that, no-one taught me how to be a man, I didn't instantly get that wage increase and become a role model.
"I was still the same kid from a working-class council estate."
"It's not right."