Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Time to give bad behaviour in football the elbow?

‘Wellness in the workplace’ covers many aspects of health and wellbeing for employees. Bullying and violent behaviour in most organisations results in instant dismissal and each organisation has a duty of care in keeping their employees safe from harm

So why should football be any different? Last year, the sporting fraternity was divided as John Terry, a very able England captain, was relieved of his duties for an admitted affair with a colleague’s ex-partner. Phrases such as ‘responsibility to fans’ ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’ and ‘bad role model’ were bandied around with gusto.

And yet here we are, just a few short-memory months later with Wayne Rooney, arguably the most famous footballer in the UK, blatantly elbowing an opponent in the face and getting away with it. (I won’t mention his previous well publicised misdemeanours with prostitutes – oops - just have). Televised coverage of the weekend match clearly shows Rooney, playing for Manchester United, shoving his elbow in his opponent’s face, away from the run of play. The referee saw this incident and awarded a free kick, but no censure for the perpetrator, not even a yellow card. His boss, the equally famous Sir Alex Ferguson played down the unsportsmanlike behaviour saying ‘There is nothing in it’

In the same weekend, Ashley Cole, another England ‘star’ has allegedly ‘shot’ a youth training scheme youngster in the leg with a powerful air rifle during a training session. An air rifle? At a football training ground? Pointed at a young man?  Health and safety in the workplace? It would appear not. Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager said ‘Ashley made a mistake….it would be very different if he had not said sorry’. So Cole will play in the crucial Premier League match tonight.

As my regular readers will know, I am a massive football fan and a Manchester United season ticket holder. But right now I feel thoroughly ashamed of the English game that I love so dearly. We strive at work to reduce bullying, to improve the wellbeing of our staff and to nurture a culture of benevolence and kindness. Yet these obscenely paid ‘role models’ continue to get away with bad, violent behaviour. The sort of behaviour that can threaten life and livelihood. Cynical, violent acts should be rewarded with a red card and match bans. What a terrible message this is sending out to the public at large.

Dangerous behaviour should result in suspension. As far as the off pitch sexual shenanigans, I’m not really interested as it doesn’t effect the wellbeing (normally) of the team mates.

Come on English football – clean up your act. Health and Wellbeing on the football pitch and on the training ground are just as important, and a lot more public, as health and wellbeing in an office.


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