Football Managers: How They’d Be Punished in the Office

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With the football World Cup on the horizon, football fans across the country are fuelling anticipation ahead of an inevitable early-stage exit for the England team.

Alongside our scrutiny of the players’ performance on the pitch, the actions of the managers’ barking orders from the sidelines will be under close inspection. As thousands of fans passionately cheer their side on, the pressure cooker of football management can sometimes get the better of even the most high-profile managers.

Football manager misdemeanours go far beyond an occasional armpit sniff from Joachim Low. Recently, we’ve seen Pep Guardiola receive no repercussions for flirting with rules by brandishing a political symbol on the touchline.

Were the actions of football manager’s to take place at an everyday office desk in the UK, would their punishments be more severe? Deborah Muller, founder and CEO of HR Acuity, said different industries often react in different ways.

“Unfortunately, some organisations are so bottom line focused that they tend to rationalise away bad behaviour as long as they can or until they just can’t anymore.”

There shouldn’t be any difference across industries, but often there is. The manager may be so integral to the organisation that the company can’t take action.”

With the help of Karen Falconer, HR Knowledge Manager at HR Solutions, we selected some real-life offences from football management and compared the real punishment with what might have happened in an office environment.

To help us imagine exactly how these events might have happened in the workplace, we also asked illustrator Emanuel Wiemans to bring these scenarios to life.


Louis Van Gaal

Offence: Whilst managing Manchester United in 2015, Louis Van Gaal implemented heavy fines to players who turned up late for lunch.

Van Gaal, known for his authoritarian management style, also handed out fines for other minor misdemeanours such as committing a bad foul during a game.

In the workplace: Bring this scenario into a typical UK office and Van Gaal would struggle to find lawful grounds for fining staff for such a trivial issue.

“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. Without an agreement, it may give grounds for the employee to resign and make a constructive dismissal claim.”


David Le Frapper

Offence: In 2015, French manager David Le Frapper embarked on a sexist rant at female referee Stephanie Frappart. After she failed to award his Valenciennes team a penalty, Le Frapper said in a post-match press conference:

“Apparently there’s a penalty but she didn’t see it or she was too far away… I don’t know. She was doing ice-skating before… I don’t know. She blew for things that didn’t exist. But what do you want me to say? A woman coming to referee a man’s sport – it’s complicated.”

Le Frappe, who apologised for his comments, was later given a two-match ban by the league.

In the workplace: Place Le Frapper’s comments within the context of the office workplace, and he may not have received such a minimal punishment.

“Once an employer has alleged misconduct brought to their attention, they 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.”


Frank Rijkaard

Offence: During his time as coach of Barcelona, Frank Rijkaard took his frustration at conceding a late goal out on the dugout. Punching the side of the dugout he was sat in, he damaged the structure as a pane of perspex glass was dislodged. Rijkaard received no repercussions for his actions.

In the workplace: Rijkaard’s criminal damage-related case would likely lead to some level of discipline – depending on the context and level of damage – were it to happen in a typical workplace environment.

“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.”


Jose Mourinho

Offence: During his time as manager of Real Madrid, José Mourinho took a finger to the eye of rival Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova. The Portuguese manager was given a two-match touchline ban for the offence, but this was later overturned.

In the workplace: “There would need to be an immediate launch of a full investigation. As soon as statements corroborate that the manager was the aggressor, the manager should be suspended immediately on full pay.

“Employers should have a zero-tolerance policy on physical violence. There may need to be further investigation and an invite to a disciplinary. A likely outcome would be dismissal without notice.”


Guus Hiddink

Offence: Ex-Chelsea and Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink was found guilty of tax fraud by a Dutch court in 2007. After evading £940,000 in taxes, he was given a six-month suspended sentence and fined £30,000.

At the time, Hiddink was the manager of the Russian national team, but no repercussions were brought to him in relation to his job.

In the workplace: Bring this scenario into the workplace and, again, it would be unlikely that Hiddink would be on the receiving end of any work-related sanctions – unless the context fell into the following scenario:

“It would be a very different matter if the crime was significantly related to the employee’s 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.

“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.”

Got any football manager misbehaviours that would get a more severe office punishment? Share it with us on Twitter at @viking_chat or on Facebook.