What Price Loyalty?

As a lifelong and ardent football fan, I am rapidly becoming disenchanted with ‘the beautiful game’. I was more than a little shocked recently by the treatment that manager Claudio Ranieri received, when he was unceremoniously sacked by the owners of Leicester City Football Club.

This got me thinking what lessons can be learnt for the business world from this debacle. In particular, does loyalty count for anything anymore or is it simply an outdated quality? Is so-called ‘short-termism’ now the order of the day and has loyalty simply been replaced by winning and achieving results at any cost?

It is only six weeks since Ranieri was named as Fifa’s coach of the year; a manager who led Leicester City, a team of 5,000 – 1 outsiders,   to last season’s Premier League title. His dismissal comes just a few weeks after the club offered him their ‘unwavering support’ in a statement insisting that there was no way his job could be in danger. The club highlighted that their success had been based on ‘stability, togetherness and determination’. Values that any business would surely aspire to have?

In a statement from the club’s vice-chairman, Ranieri brought ‘outstanding qualities to his office. His skilful management, powers of motivation and measured approach have been reflective of the rich experience we always knew he would bring. His warmth, charm and charisma have helped transform perceptions of the club and develop its profile on a global scale. We will forever be grateful to him for what he has helped us to achieve’. A ringing endorsement that any manager of a business would surely be proud? Apparently not.

The statement went on. ‘Survival (in the Premier League) was our first and only target. We are now faced with a fight to reach that objective and feel a change is necessary to maximise the opportunity presented by the final 13 games’. And so Ranieri, a man whose success in the Midlands city has led to talk of a statue bring erected in his honour, is consigned to footballing annals.

Some pundits have said that if Leicester City manages to stay in the Premier League, then the owners’ decision will be vindicated. Whether or not they stay up or are relegated, I strongly disagree. This viewpoint takes absolutely no account of the morality of the situation. I passionately believe that morals should play a significant part in business. Reportedly, Ranieri has given half his severance pay to the (Leicester City) Foxes Foundation charity; admirable morals in my mind.

Principles such as trust, honesty, respect and loyalty do – and always will – form an integral part of my business.

I wish that Leicester City could turn back the clock and rescind their decision. My fervent hope is that the world of football might learn from this and recognise that loyalty plays a vital role that money or success cannot buy.