There has been a lot of publicity and no shortage of opinion concerning Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy’s sending off against West Ham United. England manager, Roy Hodgson has come out publically in support of Vardy, exonerating him of the dive (that earned him a second yellow card) as well as his on the pitch tirade against the referee, Jon Moss.

Whether or not Vardy dived, nobody except the player knows. The incident in question is open for debate and this is the kind of thing that gets all football fans engaged and at each other’s throats. Fair enough. But this isn’t the real issue here.

VardyWhat followed the showing of the red card is why football is at moral risk. Vardy, naturally feeling aggrieved, let loose on Jon Moss and pictures that captured the moment, reveal a level of hatred and violence that is simply indefensible, especially when one considers that it was directed at the highest authority on the field – the referee. The lack of respect shown by Vardy in that moment for the referee makes a mockery of the Football Association’s Respect campaign and in this regard, Hodgson’s comments are incredibly short-sighted and bankrupt.

Football will never clean up its act in this regard when the England manager comes out and excuses Vardy’s unacceptable behaviour as, “only human”. Kids see this and copy the example set by their heroes and therein sits the real problem for the future of football. One only has to look at conduct on the rugby field between players and officials to realise just how far football has fallen. Until the FA (and other governing bodies) grow a pair and act against the kind of abuse Vardy demonstrated, football will be held hostage to immature and spoilt brats who get millions for playing (and ruining) the game.

This whole sorry episode is not an isolated incident. Every week in the EPL it is played out and if it is to be stopped it starts with not excusing this type of behaviour away as Hodgson has done. Respect is a fundamental currency in our society and football needs to play its part in recognising this and ensuring that the beautiful game remains just that, a beautiful game. There is of course a role here for the club managers who in their post-match interviews seldom say what needs to be said when it comes to on field misconduct, usually offering up the excuse of, “didn’t see the incident” or some other misdirected motive of loyalty to their players.

There remains a corporate leadership lesson in all this: Respect has to be lived out in the culture of your everyday business and transactions. Having it on the list of corporate values (as most companies do) is not enough. Respecting others has to be a verb and if not upheld by the guardians or custodians, then don’t expect it to be practiced by the masses.

Shame on your Mr. Hodgson, you should know better!

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