Anyone who knows me knows I’m a rugby boy. But rather like rubberneckers on the M25, from time to time I am compelled to watch Premier League football, even though like the aforementioned rubberneckers, I rarely see anything of interest other than a series of very minor prangs resulting in a bunch of highly agitated individuals gesticulating madly.

To that point, the headline from yesterday’s ‘Super Sunday’ is understandably Liverpool’s 7-0 demolition of Manchester United, but for me, the bigger story is the behaviour of certain players.

When I think back to last year’s World Cup, I recollect Ronaldo stomping off the pitch after the quarter final defeat without a word to any official or opposition player. But he wasn’t alone – there were countless examples of pure petulance throughout the tournament.

Will anyone ever forget Rivaldo’s antics a few years ago?

Rivaldo footballer injured

And there lies my problem with the beautiful game.

In a world where every wannabe social influencer constantly reminds business leaders of their duty of care to treat people fairly and lead by example, we allow arguably some of the biggest influencers of all – footballers – to act like spoilt, badly behaved, self-centred, disingenuous children.

Take yesterday. We had grown men rolling about holding their faces when the replay showed they were at the very worst pushed in the chest. We had narky, niggly little

digs just because they didn’t get their own way. And for me, worst of all, we had players showing absolute disregard for the referee. Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of niggling when I was playing rugby, but blatantly ignoring a ref when they were speaking to you… that’s an early bath pal.

The result of these public displays of petulance? Take a walk past any park on a Sunday morning and you’ll it see for yourself. In a recent report by the BBC, nearly a third of referees reported that they had been physically abused by spectators, players, coaches or managers. Where does that behaviour come from?

As business leaders we are encouraged, compelled and, yes, instructed to behave with dignity and decency. We are also rightly chastised when bad behaviour is identified.

‘Unacceptable’, ‘embarrassing’ and ‘disgraceful’ were words used by United players following yesterday’s defeat, and they were genuinely apologetic – although it should be noted that they were only sorry for the result, not the behaviour.

Please don’t take this as United bashing or football boshing. Rugby fans and players are very aware that the game has its own problems right now around leadership, inclusivity and respect.

So, this isn’t a problem just for United, indeed everyone should be united in addressing the problem. Perhaps they should kick off by looking at a few LinkedIn memes

about leadership and influence?

– PW –