Football Managers: How Would They Be Punished in the Office?

As HR Knowledge Manager at HR Solutions, I had the interesting task of helping Viking, suppliers of office equipment,  with their recently selected real-life offences from football management. They asked me to compare what might have happened if the offences committed had taken place in an office environment.


The pressure cooker of football management can sometimes get the better of even the most high-profile managers; and football manager misdemeanours often go far beyond what would be acceptable behaviour.  If the actions of football managers were to take place at an everyday office desk in the UK, would their punishments be more severe?

Let’s imagine how the following 8 football managers’ offences might compare with a similar scenario that might have happened in the office environment.


1.  Italian football manger, Delio Rossi, fights with footballer Adem Ljajic

Office scenario: “An employee disagrees with a managers planned strategy and makes a sarcastic comment, leading the manager to physically attack the employee in the office.”

No-one gets on all the time, which doesn’t mean a sarcastic comment is OK, but if that was all it was, it is relatively minor. You would not expect a more senior member of staff to behave in the same way, let alone escalate it, as the very nature of being senior requires a degree of behaving as a ‘role model’.

Unless the attack can be immediately disproved (e.g. by CCTV footage), then physical violence will almost always warrant immediate suspension on full pay. This is because it should be treated as a potential gross misconduct case. If following an investigation and a disciplinary hearing the gross misconduct allegations are upheld, the outcome would be dismissal without notice and therefore, without notice pay.


2.  Italian football manger Mazzone swearing at the Atalanta supporters

Office scenario:  “A Manager disagrees with customer feedback and launches a verbal attack on the customer using expletives.”

Customers are the life blood of many organisations. Without them, there is no business. If the swearing constituted aggressive or threatening verbal abuse, then it has the potential to be treated as gross misconduct.

Again, suspension on full pay is necessary for every potential gross misconduct case. However if it is possible to remove the individual from situations so that they are unable to repeat the alleged gross misconduct, then this is always preferable. In this instance, it would probably be more productive to temporarily ban the manager from speaking to customers and from being in their presence. If this was a regular part of their job, then it would be reasonable to give the manager other work to do, whilst the event is investigated.

If the conduct was deemed to be misconduct or serious misconduct, it may not be necessary to ban the manager from customers. You would expect a formal warning to be issued following a disciplinary process, to deter it from happening again.

As the misconduct is public facing, any disciplinary allegations should include reputational damage.


3.  French football manager, David Le Frapper, makes sexists comments towards referee Stephanie Frappart

Office scenario:  “A manager disagrees with a decision by a regulatory body and derides the decision by inferring the decision maker was unqualified for their position due to their gender.”

Regulatory bodies are supreme and should be treated with due respect. Any legitimate cause for concern about the actions of a regulatory body would need to be put to moderators or even a court, using proper process and formality.

The regulatory body (third party organisation) may decide to refuse to interact with that particular manager again; (after all, the regulatory body themselves would have a duty to protect their own staff from discrimination).

If the employer needs to maintain the relationship with the third party, then a situation may arise called ‘third party pressure’. There is a process that must be followed which attempts to protect employment, but this in itself can lead to a dismissal due to ‘Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR).

Whether the third party has refused to continue to work with the manager or not, once an employer has an alleged misconduct brought to their attention, they still have a responsibility to address it. On the surface, it appears that in the course of their duties, the manager has made unlawful discriminatory remarks on the grounds of gender and in doing so has contravened the Equality Act 2010. Secondly, they have also demonstrated a serious lack of respect for the standards of their own profession.

In any situation, context is key, however unlawful discrimination made in connection with a protected characteristic (in this case gender) warrants investigation and (unless the discrimination can quickly be disproved) the immediate suspension of the manager on full pay as unlawful discrimination should be treated as potential gross misconduct.


4.  Dutch football manager, Guus Hiddink’s notorious tax evasion

Office scenario: “A manager is found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to a six month suspended sentence with a £30,000 fine. Would the manager face any sanctions in the workplace due to the conviction?”

It is actually unlikely that the manager would receive a workplace sanction. It would be a very different matter however, if the crime was significantly related to the employees duties, or if the ramifications of the conviction caused significant material damage to the employer.

For example, if part of the manager’s job role included responsibility for finances, or there were serious opportunities to commit fraud, then the employer could begin a formal process. This is not straightforward, alternatives to dismissal would need to be considered and there would have to be compelling justification and consideration of the circumstances, however there is scope to safeguard the business, up to and including dismissal.

Alternatively, if the case was high profile and there was likely to be far reaching reputational damage caused to the employer by the continued association and employment of the manager then these may be grounds to begin a process as above.

In some cases there may be a regulatory or supervisory body which has strict rules prohibiting the continued employment of an individual with certain convictions in certain job roles. This may also give cause to find an alternative position within the business or to begin a process to end employment.


5.  Louis van Gaal fines Manchester United players for being just a minute late for lunch

Office scenario:  “A manager is keeping track of how long his team are spending on their lunch break and imposing monetary fines if the employees are not back at their desk exactly on time.”

It is almost unheard of to fine staff for being late back from lunch. Lateness should normally be managed as a conduct issue, and even then, every instance of lateness should be explored first in case there is a legitimate reason for it.

If fines are being taken directly from pay, and there is no pre-agreement to this, then the fine would be an unlawful deduction from wages. If it happened regularly, it may even be argued that the fines represent a detrimental change to the terms of the job, and without agreement, may give grounds for the employee to resign and make a constructive dismissal claim.

Contracts are built around inherent trust that each party will fulfil their obligations. To suddenly begin intensive monitoring without rationalising it to staff, will have a detrimental impact on the sense of trust and also morale.


6.  German football manager, Norbert Meier, head-butts a Cologne player, Albert Streit. Meier falls to the floor pretending to be the victim.

Office scenario:  “A manager headbutts an employee of a rival firm and then protests that they were in fact the victim. The incident was witnessed by numerous employees from both firms who attest that the manager did indeed headbutt the rival.”

There would need to be an immediate launch of a full investigation. As soon as statements corroborate that the manager was not the victim, but the aggressor, the manager should be suspended immediately on full pay.

Employers should have a zero-tolerance policy on physical violence. If this is actually put into practice, then deliberate violence, meant to cause harm should be treated as a potential gross misconduct matter, hence the need for suspension.

There may need to be further investigation and an invite to a disciplinary, to hear allegations including: deceit, a break down in trust, and violence. A likely outcome would be dismissal without notice. Lower level action or approaches could be issued if there was any compelling mitigation, such as a diagnosed medical disorder characterised by sudden aggression.


7.  Portuguese football manager, Jose Mourinho pokes Barcelona coach in the eye

Office scenario:  “A manager pokes an employee from a rival firm in the eye.”

This would be the same as the previous answer, but without the concern of deceitfulness. It would not matter that the manager did it to someone in a different company. What matters is that they did it in the pursuance of their duties or whilst representing the Company.

If an employer does not demonstrate through their measures, practices and policies that they do not tolerate behaviour such as this, then the employer can be held as vicariously liable for the actions of its employee, if the conduct happened ‘in the course of employment’. This is not restricted to conduct that happens on the premises or even during normal working hours!


8.  Dutch football manager, Frank Rijkaard, punches dugout

Office scenario:  “A manager damages company property when angered by poor team results.”

Depending on the circumstances, the extent of the damage and any mitigation the manager can provide, then this would be treated as a conduct issue. It is likely to be treated as misconduct or serious misconduct if the damage was significant.

Allegations that are upheld following a disciplinary procedure for misconduct or serious misconduct would result in a written warning or a final written warning respectively. Warnings such as these usually expire after 6 or 12 months. If there are any existing warnings on file that remain ‘live’ then they may be built upon.


Do you find it hard to manage disruptive managers and employees in the workplace?  Need HR advice and support?  HR Solutions can help. Give us a call on 0844 324 5840 or contact us online to find out how we can help your business.




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