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Airport City, Manchester 0161 537 3324

Offices 204 and 205
Manchester Business Park
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Manchester M22 5TG

17th April, 2019

Disobedient Employees

Sports Law

Many Employers have to deal with employees who disobey orders. Although, an outdated style, telling a defiant employee to do something because “you’re the boss” may seem tempting, doing so may backfire and cause even more problems.

This can sometimes lead to confrontation or the employee causing disruption within the workplace. It can also lead to loss of confidence in the manager trying to deal with this problem.

On 24 February 2019, Chelsea FC played Manchester City in the English Football League Cup final, losing on penalties at Wembley. However, the game will not be remembered for the excitement of the match, it will be remembered for Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, disobeying his manager’s instructions to leave the field to be substituted for another goalkeeper. Clearly Maurizio Sarri, the Chelsea manager, had planned what he wanted his team to do, as well as possible concerns about the young goalkeeper’s potential injury. However, the keeper refused to leave the field.

The player’s behaviour left the Chelsea manager apparently furious and glaring at his disobedient player who had ignored his instructions. Fellow colleagues of the keeper even told him to leave the field and to respect the manager’s decision for him to come off.

After the final, the goalkeeper said there had been a miscommunication between him and Sarri.  The keeper claimed he thought that Sarri’s order was for him to come off due to injury. The keeper explained he had told the trainer, who was treating him, that he was fine to continue and that the message did not reach the manager. This highlights the importance of clear communication and how misunderstandings can lead to disputes and on occasion, a public show of what could be interpreted as disrespect from the player towards the manager’s decision, if not communicated correctly.

The following morning the goalkeeper was fined by the club a sum of £190,000 (one week’s wages). The goalkeeper also apologised to his manager and team mates after the incident the next day at the club’s Cobham training ground.

The following Wednesday, Chelsea played a league fixture against a rival side and the manager did not select the keeper to play, which some have argued was further punishment.

Was a fine sufficient sanction?  Chelsea FC paid £71.6 Million last August for the goalkeeper, who is reported to be one of the club’s most valuable assets.

In the commercial world, if an employee ignores a reasonable management instruction from their line manager then they may face disciplinary action for misconduct.

ACAS Guidance confirms serious insubordination could amount to gross misconduct which could result in summarily dismissal if upheld following fair disciplinary procedure.

We can offer bespoke in house training sessions for managers on how to handle refusals of reasonable management instruction and extreme behaviour at work. Please contact Claire Brook for further information or advice regarding employment law.

Our specialist team work with sports clubs, associations, owners and players from elite-levels to amateurs. Contact Ben Mason for any advice.

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