Another one bites the dust: Are football clubs playing the game when it comes to employee contracts?

By | January 19, 2011

Football contractsDespite being regarded by all commentators as a nice man and by most as a good football manager, Roy Hodgson’s departure from Liverpool ‘by mutual consent’ is the third Premier League manager to leave his job in the current season –which is only just over half way finished! 

This, together with the constant press coverage of players looking to leave clubs even though under contract, or using interest in their services from a second club to ‘persuade’ a better deal out of their current employers juxtaposes harshly with those employees on minimum wage in the public sector who may be leaving employment, ‘by mutual consent’ or more likely otherwise in the next few months.

Are sports clubs and stars playing by the rules other organisations and employees have to adhere to? Here are the key facts:

  1. Employees’ rights should all be the same. Theoretically, an employee is an employee, whether a star Premier League striker or a less glamorous road sweeper for the local council.  Each has rights and responsibilities in relation to his employer. Each is entitled to a statement of the basic terms of their contract as they start employment and each is entitled to consider action if they think that their departure from employment is unjust – whether by way of action for wrongful dismissal under the contract of employment or by action for unfair dismissal under statute.
  2. Both employees and employers have duties to fulfil. The rights of employees may well be touched on in this blog in the future.  Just now, I am reflecting on their duties. Amongst a number of duties defined by the courts over the years are those of ‘obedience’, to take reasonable care, and of ‘fidelity’.  In return for this, employers owe duties, amongst others, also to take reasonable care and to treat employees with respect.  Some of these terms may be expressed in rather old fashioned language, but I think most people will see what the courts were getting at.  Many ‘ordinary’ workers face career threatening disciplinary proceedings or worse for alleged breaches of their duties, though it seems unusual for sporting ‘stars’ to be held to account in the same way.
  3. ‘Treating employees with respect’ often just means cash for football clubs. I do feel sorry for Roy Hodgson in the position he found himself which did appear, from what has come out in the media, to be close to untenable.  I am also fairly certain that the ‘mutual consent’ part of his departure had more than a little to do with the financial size of the pay off he will receive from Liverpool FC .  How much easier it seems to be for Premiership football clubs to treat their employees ‘with respect’ in this area of the contract than it is for cash strapped local public sector employers.

In return for the enhanced ‘respect’ provisions football club staff, and indeed other sports professionals, seem  able to receive, I do hope we will see a little more in future of their duties of obedience and fidelity than some of the money grabbing, selfish antics which do become public. 

Surely the public sector workers who find themselves out of a job because of the spending cuts may just find their situation just a little easier to take if the well paid sports stars they see actually do ‘play the game’?

About Chris Gale

Chris graduated from University College Cardiff in 1977 and qualified as a solicitor in 1980. He moved to academia in 1990 with an appointment at the Polytechnic of North London and joined Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds Law School) in 1994, becoming head of undergraduate studies and being responsible for profiling, timetabling and staff development across the School. He joined Bradford University Law School as the inaugural Director of Legal Studies in July 2005.

Specialties: Human rights, Sport and the Law, Public Confidence in the Legal System

2 thoughts on “Another one bites the dust: Are football clubs playing the game when it comes to employee contracts?

  1. Claire Morley-Jones

    I do wonder actually how many “big” organisations actually play the game at all! Even the Government hires and fires at will based on the media’s general dislike of any individual! Take for example, the case of the ex Transport Minister Philip Hammond – he was sacked purely for not having a crystal ball and seeing that huge amounts of snow would fall in early December! Were proper employment procedures followed in this case? I doubt it.

    Or the case of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand – they had been dismissed within days of their offences – what happened to normal HR procedures?! How could you possibly have given them 24 hours notice of a disciplinary meeting, investigated all of the evidence, presented the evidence, held the disciplinary meeting with a right of response and given them the opportunity to appeal – all within 48 hours?

    I am pleased that the Government is re-visiting its onerous employment legislation although if it perhaps had had to play by the rules like everyone else, a revamp would have been much sooner!

  2. Superb Search

    As an avid lover of football, it is crazy at the amount of hiring and firing that goes on during just one season. Amazing that all successful companies look at data to make decisions. It’s not a coincidence that Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been managers of their respective clubs for more than 15 years. One word; stability.

    In the same way, in the business world we try to keep employee turnover low as possible to bring stability and success to our organisations.

    The truth (data) stares us in the face yet we deny the truth and try and be heroes and ultimately fail. It’s no surprise that Liverpool, once the major force in English football. at a time when they stuck by their manager have now seen their stock drop in not only English football but also European football.

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