"Managing People with Morecrofts"

What goes on tour stays on tour? Will footballer Jack Grealish receive a red card for his conduct away from home?

by Thomas Sutherland

The sporting newspapers and webpages have been full of the young 19 year-old Aston Villa midfielder, Jack Grealish, in recent days. Unfortunately, this media attention has been focused on his activities off the pitch rather than his impressive performances on it helping Aston Villa to the FA Cup Final and catching the eye of the England national team, who have been reported courting him to represent them rather than play for the Republic of Ireland.

As ever, it all started with social media. Earlier this week, pictures of the young midfield surfaced online. The pictures showed Grealish lying on a street in Tenerife, apparently passed out from excessive alcohol consumption. Naturally, Aston Villa have followed the correct procedure by way of announcing that the situation will be dealt with internally and they will be making no further comment.

This comes only a couple of months after publication of a picture apparently showing Grealish inhaling the legal high, nitrous oxide, from a balloon. Whilst this is legal, it is not recommended due to the potential health ramifications stemming from the oxygen deprivation caused by inhalation of the substance.

From an employment law point of view, Aston Villa have a duty to investigate the situation fully, consult with the player to ascertain his view and then take appropriate, proportionate action if the situation requires it. Villa’s actions in dealing with the situation internally and avoiding further comment are sensible, not only in terms of employment law, but with the mindset of the young player in mind also.

From a personal point-of-view, everybody makes mistakes when growing up and, indeed, this is where life’s most important lessons tend to be learnt. it is perhaps to be expected that a teenager with the world at his feet, two countries fighting over national team representation and a sizeable wage is going to fall foul of this; and when he does fall foul of it, that it will be reported more likely than not in the national media.

This situation raises an important point in terms of general employment relationships and warns of the perils of social media in particular. Whilst no employer wishes to control their employee’s social life outside of work, including their holidays, it is important to ensure that situations which would severely (note the use of the word: severely) bring that person’s professionalism into doubt are not photographed and/or uploaded online.

Every employer will expect their employees to go on holidays with friends and holiday. Most would certainly condone their employee letting their hair down, relaxing and having a few social drinks. However, there is a line to be drawn and a major difference between embarrassing photos in which an employee looks slightly worse for wear and ones where that employee is passed out on a foreign street.

At the end of the day, it is important to ensure that your conduct outside the workplace isn’t so controversial or unprofessional as to result in being given a red card by your employer.