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Does HR exist at all in Professional football?

David Cooper, Director of Human Resources at the Royal College of Nursing, opines on the strange and unique world of football, and asks, does HR even exist in the game?

First of all let me make it clear, I like Alan Pardew the current Manager of Newcastle Football club. Actually let me qualify that remark I like him but I don't know him and have never met him – he just seems a decent sort of man and someone who if I were to ever be reborn with any football talent I'd be happy to play for him as my manager.

But liking him in this way cannot excuse his behaviour and that of other League Managers and players that in any other industry would have HR professions running dismissal hearings with great regularity – with no mitigation beyond the “Clinton defence” of “I did because I could”. In essence I did it because I can and I won't get dismissed or face any other sanction beyond an insignificant fine amounting to the equivalent of a latte for most “normal” employees. So where Pardew is concerned does a seven game ban and a £60k fine for headbutting David Meyler a player for the opposition constitute a reasonable and fair sanction? For me not.

Leave aside the shocking behaviour as a supposed role model it simply cannot be right to allow such actions to go properly unpunished. What on earth does Pardew now have to do to get the sack? The answer is strangely nothing to do with his behaviour but all about whether he wins or loses games. If he loses enough even though he actually isn't on the field playing he will be sacked. In the meantime he could probably head butt, rant, scream and shout as much as he likes without the slightest fear of losing his job, a luxury afforded to very few outside of what has become the HR-free zone of professional football. But Pardew isn’t alone residing in this desert of HR practice. What other industry would tolerate and continue to employ people who abuse every known definition of acceptable behaviour towards fellow employees and colleagues.

The list is endless but here are a few to make Pardew feel he is in good company. Luiz Suarez biting an opposition player; John Terry racially abusing Anton Ferdinand; Ashley Cole shooting a trainee with an air rifle; Joey Barton (the list is too long to print) but snubbing out a cigar on an apprentice’s eye must surely rank as dismissal, and who can forget Craig Bellamy attacking John Arne Rise with a golf club? I suppose “high jinks” constitutes mitigation on every case. When will HR apply to this world? Never I suspect. And all the while it doesn't millions seek to emulate this behaviour on park fields throughout the world.

So next time one of our colleagues sinks his or her teeth into a colleague whilst at the same time verbally abusing them – just brush it off as “a bit of fun” and fine them a latte!

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