The ability of the FA to shoot itself in the foot never ceases to amaze me, but I must admit to feeling justa little sorry for them over the John Terry affair.
The Chairman, David Bernstein, in my view, made the right decision in stripping Terry of the England captaincy, but then had the decision attacked by Fabio Capello, the Head Coach who said;
“I completely disagree with the FA about the John Terry decision and I have told that to the chairman. … The court will decide. It’s going to be civil justice, not sports justice, to decide if John Terry committed the crime that he is accused of. … I considered and still consider Terry as the England captain. I think we first should wait for the trial conclusion.”
No ambiguity there then. I suspect his reaction has more to do with trying to assert his waning authority than putting forward a reasoned argument on the actual issue itself (although it does call his judgment on that issue into question) and it brings him into conflict with his employers. It was surely unwise of Capello to go public with his views, even if he did privately disagree with the FA’s decision. David Davies, the former FA Executive Director, suggested Capello may have breached his contract of employment.
Capello may well be in breach of contract. I would expect his contract to contain a clause saying that he won’t make any derogatory or detrimental comments about his employer and whilst his words are not derogatory, they are certainly detrimental to the FA because it flags up a big difference of opinion between manager and Board in one of the most high-profile businesses around in the run up to a major tournament.
More fundamentally, Capello may have broken the implied term of mutual trust and confidence in stating his disagreement so clearly. He must have known his words would cause embarrassment. Perhaps he doesn’t care? Maybe Capello doesn’t relish the prospect of another summer of high expectations and shattered dreams? If so, trying to get sacked by your employer would be one quick way out, but it doesn’t seem likely. The problem for the FA now is what should they do about Capello’s outburst? If they pretend it never occurred they look weak and if they do assert their authority they run the risk of being without their manager in the run up to Euro 2012, either because they have to sack him or he resigns. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t: as usual.
On the Terry issue itself there has been a lot of debate over whether he should have been dismissed before his criminal trial, with many people saying that he should be held innocent until proven guilty. I think that is too simplistic and fails to take into account both the highly public and highly personal nature of the England captaincy. For instance, there is a need for all members of the England team to set a good example and in Terry’s case that is called into question. His commitment to the FA’s Respect agenda and supporting the anti-racist work it has been doing over the last few years is also compromised.
Further, can a man who is accused of racism effectively lead a dressing room that contains black players, including the brother of the man he is accused of insulting? It’s all very well to talk about players being professional, but some issues run too deep.
There is also no principle which says employers must not take disciplinary action before criminal proceedings have been completed: see this very useful piece on the xpert HR blog.
A final thought: What is John Terry’s employment status with the FA? Is he an employee or a worker? The position of England captain is presumably an honorific one and he hasn’t (yet) been deselected for England, so don’t expect him to trundle off to the nearest Employment Tribunal to seek reinstatement.