The incident involved a Chelsea player, Eden Hazard who kicked a ball boy as he lay on the ground. The 17 year old son of the Swansea City Director annoyed both home fans and players by holding on to the ball too long as he attempted to wind down the clock for his team. Viewing the replay, Hazard delivered quite a hard kick and the boy’s body was squarely between the Chelsea player’s boot and the ball, so the outcome of the kick could never have been in doubt. Hazard defended his actions saying that he had not intended to kick the boy ‘…I was just trying to kick the ball’. Mmm - a bit like a wife beater saying his prey’s face got in the way of his fist.
The spectacle was bad enough but the mixed reactions from those involved with the sport are even more shocking with several ex-premier league players saying that they would have done the same in similar circumstances. Yes the lad was trying to cheat by time wasting, but does that justify physical violence? I think not.
Alas, not only does this sad story demonstrates how far our national sport can fall from ‘the beautiful game’ to an ugly spectacle. It is also a depressing example of how an organisation’s leadership and culture spills down throughout the ranks.
Football is now spattered with undisputed cheating, poor behaviour, bullying and dodgy practice. Maybe this young lad felt that time wasting and exaggerating his pain is acceptable as he watches his heroes regularly dive to win penalties, feign injury as they clutch their undamaged faces and abuse match officials. My love affair with football, which has spanned four decades, is now seriously compromised as players and their clubs continue to disappoint.
As I have written before – a professional football club is an employer, and the pitch is the workplace. If a junior clerk in a shipping company skives off and comes back late from lunch or messes up an order is it acceptable to clip him round the ear? Of course not. Positive workplace behaviour is bred from strong leadership and positive role models. Strong leadership is not the same as bullying and a good role model should be more than just talented at their job.
The power of football isn’t only about the vast sums of money involved – it is also based on the millions of fans who can be influenced by the sporting heroes on, and off, the pitch.
Strong leadership? Let me think – how many managers has Chelsea Football club had over the recent past? 8 different managers in five and a half years. Does that make the owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich a strong leader or a bully? Does that type of leadership generate good behaviours on and off the pitch?
Of course Chelsea aren’t the only culprits so I make a plea (yes I know this may be a little naïve) to all employers – lead well, behave with fairness and honour, and you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.