When a ‘premier’ league footballer falls to the ground, rolls over 16 times and clasps his non-bleeding leg with an anguished look of pain – not because he’s been mercilessly hacked down by an opposing player, but usually because a slight breeze has blown up within 40,000 feet of the football pitch – a small, tracksuited man comes running out with a bucket and sponge to tend to his wounded knee.
Yet, when a premier league manager falls victim to ‘friendly’ fire, as happened when Chelsea football club and its manager Jose Mourinho parted company by ‘mutual agreement’, the soothing sponge of any kind of sensible HR policy is invariably conspicuous by its absence.
Much like the acting profession, or indeed pretty much any other business connected with the world of entertainment, the human element of the resources does not let itself get bogged down with tedious reality.
In football at the highest level, this obviously isn’t too much of an issue – Mourinho is said to have walked away with £16m burning a hole in his pocket. Was the HR team involved in that deal? I doubt it. But further down the leagues, and across the rest of the entertainment firmament – think jobbing actors on cruise ships, musicians forced to sign financially crippling record deals, or even Sky journalists on short-term contracts – employment law is something that happens to somebody else.
But if it’s all to do with being paid for results, then perhaps some of the top-flight footballers should swap places with their thespian counterparts. Former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben is a better actor than most, and I’m sure Martin Clunes could score a few goals with the extra head-width provided by his elephantine lugholes.