A Wall Street Journal article noted that owning a football club in Britain shows “you’re at a certain level as a businessman”. But while you’ll gain personal and commercial benefits from being linked with a club, beware the wrath of employment legislation.
Owning a football club, or becoming a majority stakeholder, has become quite the craze. If you’re contemplating getting in on the action, but remain dubious about the employment legislation side of things, then there are two high-profile cases you should get acquainted with.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has been none too happy with the performance and tardiness of striker Ross McCormack. Their latest spat involved McCormack missing training due to his house’s faulty electric gates, with Bruce claiming: “Not in 20 years in management have I ever gone down the road of publicly shaming a player, but I feel I have to make a stance because I will not put up with it on my watch.”
The case is important because it highlights one crucial factor. Whether you run a premier league football club or a corner shop, the law will always be the same. According to Emma O’Leary, employment legislation consultant for the ELAS Group: “If you have an employee that does not turn up and has no reasonable explanation for their absence then that should be tackled – it’s no different in football.”
Such a situation is grounds for an intervention, no matter the industry. O’Leary added: “Whether it’s the fault of a fancy gate putting someone under house arrest or their granddad’s cousin’s sister dying for the fourth time, if employers and football managers alike doubt the validity of an absence they should challenge it.”
So the law doesn’t change, but if you really want that football-related job then the next case will make you realise how stressful your decisions will be. Think about the BBC, Jeremy Clarkson scenario. The success of Top Gear kept the media company from firing Clarkson for quite some time. The players you’ll be dealing with are all just as important to the club as Clarkson was to the show. With that in mind, let’s talk about Dimitry Payet.
West Ham’s Payet has been on strike since the club rejected an offer from Marseille. Manager Slaven Bilic pointed to the five-year contract the player signed in 2016. Let’s be frank, an employee who refused to work in the business wold would have been fired long ago. This type of situation, O’Leary explained, was not uncommon in football. Managers will sometimes be left with the dilemma of keeping key talent while making allowances on attitude.
Sometimes a situation where you would have normally sent someone out the door isn’t possible when it comes to the performance of the club. Be prepared to change your mindset a little.