In how many industries can you be punished for obeying the rules of your job? Not many I suspect. But there is one. And surprise surprise its football as Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro has learned.
The background to this shameful affair is this. On the 8th of August near the end of Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea City their star player Eden Hazard went down. The referee Michael Oliver asked Chelsea’s medical staff onto the pitch to treat Hazard which Carneiro and fellow medic Jon Fearn duly did. Turned out that Hazard wasn’t injured but that is irrelevant. They were told to go on to the pitch and they did so. No problem surely?
To a sane human being no. But to Chelsea manager Jose Mouriniho there was. As Chelsea had had goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois sent off earlier in the game the fact that Hazard had to go off for treatment left Chelsea temporarily down to nine men. Reluctant to blame himself or his players for their failure to win a game they were expected to, Mouriniho instead attacked Carneiro and Fearn for being “naive” and “not knowing about football”. And he promptly demoted them saying they would not be on the bench for Chelsea’s future games. They have not been on the bench since and Carneiro has left Chelsea this week. (The affair is in the hands of her lawyers and she may make a claim for constructive dismissal*).
With football’s appalling record on gender equality it is hardly surprising that Mouriniho’s remarks about Carneiro have caused a stink – especially as that has been used as a stick to beat women in football with since time immormorial. As Sierra Williams wrote recently in the London School of Economics Review of Books: “If I am in the pub with my boyfriend and his friends and express an opinion about football it is disregarded immediately.” (That is despite the fact that the likes of Philipa Booth, Carrie Dunn and Amy Lawrence write about football better than the vast majority of men).
And if that wasn’t bad enough a fan has claimed that Mouriniho called Carneiro a ” filha da puta” – Portuguese for “daughter of a whore”. Mouriniho claims he called her “filho da puta” – “son of a bitch” (not much of an improvement to be honest). The FA are investigating which at the speed that organisation works probably means Christmas will have come and gone by the time we find out their verdict. He faces at least a five game ban if found guilty.
The sexism is bad enough. But Mouriniho’s behaviour is disgraceful for another reason. Carneiro and Fearn have been demoted – and in Carneiro’s case forced out – for obeying the rules of their job. For the fact is that once Oliver asked them on to the field to treat Hazard they would have been breaking their medical oath – called the Hippocratic oath – had they not attended to Hazard. What Mouriniho thought was utterly irrelevant. In effect Mouriniho was wanting them to disobey the rules of their own profession just to help Chelsea.
And here is the rub of this messy affair. Mouriniho is not alone. He is typical of an arrogant industry puffed full of its own importance. An industry that thinks the rules of the medical profession should not apply to it. Or indeed the law of this or any other country. A world governing body – the ghastly FIFA – that actually persuaded Brazil and South Africa to change their laws to accommodate the demands of FIFA’s sponsors. An industry that got a clause in the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act effectively banning mixed football (one MP called the clause – which applied to sport – a “football clause”) and an FA that went to court against a 12 year old girl to enforce it. Football is so arrogant I suspect most managers in the Premier League would have behaved towards their medical staff the way Mouriniho did.
So what should happen? Mouriniho should be banned from football for life – regardless of whether or not he made the sexist remarks to Carneiro. He put his medical staff in an impossible position where they had to disobey either Chelsea or their Hippocratic oath. It is quite possible that had Carneiro and Fearn not treated Hazard that day they would have been in trouble with the General Medical Council (GMC) for disobeying their oath. They were put in a Catch 22 that must never happen again.
To solve the problem football clubs should be banned from employing doctors. Instead the GMC should allocate medical staff to each club and the club would have no say in the matter. There are two advantages to this. The doctors would know who they had to obey and they would be accountable to the GMC and not the club. In the Carneiro/Fearn case Mouriniho and Chelsea could not have demoted them as they would not be their employers. Secondly it might mean more women in football. The vast majority of physiotherapy students in the UK are women but they are so rare in football that Carneiro running on to the pitch was a novelty because there are so few women in football. If a body outside the sexist world of football was choosing the medical staff at football clubs it is at least possible that there would be more women doctors/physios in football. And it would mean the abuse Eva Carneiro has suffered – from her own club’s manager as well as from opposition fans – would not be for nothing if more women followed in her footsteps.
Finally one thing I don’t understand is the attitude of Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich. Chelsea unsurprisingly have had a lot of bad press over this affair. Why did he not give Mouriniho orders to apologize to Carneiro? Even better why did he not sack Mouriniho and reinstate Carneiro to the Chelsea bench? Mouriniho might think he is god’s gift to football but he is not the only good manager out there. In fact Chelsea and Real Madrid – both of whom Mouriniho managed – won the Champions League under other managers. He is not irreplaceable. And if I was Chelsea’s owner I would not want my club dragged through the sewer and made utterly toxic by the antics of an egomaniac. After all don’t they say that “No man is bigger than the club”?.
*”Constructive dismissal” means “action by an employer which leaves an employee no alternative but to resign”. Carneiro would need to convince a court that by demoting her Mouriniho was forcing her out.