Calm down, everyone. James Bond is not moving from MI6 to LS11. Andrea Radrizzani does not, as far as I am aware, have a white, blue-eyed Persian cat.

The outcry – or not – from the discovery of a Leeds United employee watching1 Derby County train while standing on the public highway has at times been hilarious and wholly two-faced. And, on occasion, more thought-provoking than at first glance.

Let’s start with the obvious: the hand-wringing. “Bielsa has broken football’s ‘moral code’”, says Martin Keown. “Moral code”? Football? A sport whose World Cup competitions are bought and sold, whose trainees were routinely molested while blind eyes were turned, where diving and simulation is commonplace, homophobia and racism is rife on the field, on the terraces and in the hierarchy, where a rather large number of clubs are sponsored by gambling firms and the FA itself partners with a range of bad-for-your-health companies?

Moral code? As if.

The only code broken seems to be the one about not getting caught. Then again, Dirty Leeds isn’t Chelsea (scroll to the end).

The moral maze

Once I’d calmed down from my rant I had a longer think about it.

In a sport where breaches of trust, transgressions of the Laws of the Games and outright criminal activity are tolerated and occasionally encouraged, what place is there for ethics, integrity and professionalism? And yet this is when (and where) they are needed the most.

One of the joys of being a CIPR member is that I, and others, willingly sign up to a code of conduct. It forces us to think, not just of the legal implications of our actions but to square them with our personal and professional ethics (have a look at this guide). And, most importantly, to act transparently as an organisation when sanctions are necessary, so that others have confidence in our professional standards. Not ‘a quiet word in someone’s ear’.

In the ‘spygate’ instance it’s not illegal, other people have done it and the manager had no problem with the approach. Being a good football player or a good coach/manager doesn’t mean you’ll automatically set the best example to those coming through the system – unlike CIPR members (and the PRCA, they have a code of conduct too, as do many other bodies). I would like to think that a discussion of ethical behaviours and appropriate sanctions forms part of the UEFA ‘B’, ‘A’ and ‘Pro Licence courses… you tell me.

Ethics starts with the individual. Professionalism starts when practitioners all have the same worldview, and when future generations are taught about the importance of ethics and integrity. Association Football practitioners would do well to follow our example rather than feign moral outrage or brush it off as ‘bants’.

  1. It wasn’t reported if he was even taking notes… []