• ‘a trite, meaningless or prosaic statement, often used as a thought-terminating cliché, aimed at quelling social, emotional or cognitive unease’ (Wikipedia).

I usually try and write upbeat pieces for our blog, however this week I need to have a whinge.  A few things in the last couple of weeks have annoyed me so I’m sharing my annoyance; you’re welcome.  There seems to be a long list of examples at present of strong sounding statements, yet the actions completely ignore the intent of the statement.  The statements seem to be made up by a PR or marketing team that offer social or moral guidance, which as per a platitude appear true.

Kurt Zouma and West Ham United Football Club inspired me to write this blog.  The video of Zouma abusing his cats is appalling and West Ham’s reaction to it was pathetic.  The video was published by the Sun on Monday.  West Ham responded with a statement “West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player…. We have spoken to Kurt and will be dealing with the matter internally”.  West Ham played on Tuesday evening and Zouma was picked to play.  Manager David Moyes was asked before the game if the incident had affected his decision whether to pick Zouma or not.  He responded with “No, because he is one of our better players.  But it is certainly ongoing and the club are dealing with it, so it is a separate matter.  I am really disappointed, the club have taken all the actions they can do at the moment…. my job is to win for West Ham”. 

I have lots of issues with these statements and the subsequent actions.  It made me wonder what a footballer for West Ham would have to do to be dropped as punishment for their behaviour.  Interestingly, in January 2018, the now star striker Michail Antonio was dropped from the squad for being late to a team meeting.  Are West Ham saying that being late for a team meeting is a more serious offence than abusing animals?  Moyes’ statement saying “it is a separate matter” and “my job is to win for West Ham” shows just how far removed integrity has become in football.  He’s basically saying that a player’s behaviour is irrelevant when choosing a team.  “The club have taken all the actions they can do at the moment”; have they?  All of these words and statements from West Ham are meaningless as their actions aren’t aligned. 

I am a season ticket holder at Leicester City and we are playing West Ham on Sunday.  I am ensuring my vocal chords are in tip-top shape to share my anger with Mr Zouma if he plays on Sunday.  I am intrigued as to what West Ham do next (if anything).  They have said they have applied the maximum fine and the proceeds will be given to an animal charity.  Mr Zouma should have offered that, not West Ham take it from him and pass it to charity.  Football has clearly lost its way in the last couple of decades, as seen by Qatar hosting the World Cup later this year and it only seems to wake up when money is at risk.  Adidas, Vitality and Experience Kissimmee have suspended or cancelled their sponsorship of the club and player.  It is becoming a public relations disaster for West Ham that could end up hurting the owners where it hurts the most; their back pocket.

It’s not just West Ham that are putting out meaningless statements that aren’t backed up by appropriate actions.  Our very own Prime Minister has shown that words are far easier to say than do.  I like to remember C.S. Lewis’ comment; ‘Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching’.

Our industry is becoming obsessed with managing ESG (environmental, social and governance) risks and many studies have shown that managing the social and governance risks in particular results in better shareholder outcomes.  I’ve spoken to numerous management teams in the last few years who spend a while explaining how they manage ESG risks, however you then do some digging and their actions aren’t aligned to their words.

Zouma is idolised by fans and many children want to be like him.  What sort of message does his appalling behaviour and West Ham’s reaction send to fans, kids and other players at West Ham?  It’s okay to abuse animals and you’ll still play for West Ham?  I appreciate that everyone makes mistakes, however people have to be responsible and accountable for their actions, with appropriate penalties levied by authorities when behaviour is not up to standard. 

It’s not just in the UK that behaviour and standards in sport is questionable.  I’ll be watching the Superbowl on Sunday, however Bruno Flores’ (ex Miami Dolphins coach) lawsuit is highlighting a number of social and governance issues in the NFL.  The NFL issued a statement immediately after saying the case was “without merit” with some similar, familiar platitude comments.  However, in the last couple of days, the NFL Commissioner has written to clubs with a slightly different tone saying that the league “fell short… by a lot” and “we’re not doing a good enough job here”.  It’s just sad that Flores has had to highlight it in the courtroom, rather than the authorities having the right ESG management in place to start with.

We have a welcome document at WKM that we talk through with new employees and in it, it says “Behaviour creates standards.  Standards create a culture.  Culture drives behaviour.”  The insights into West Ham and the Government seriously question behaviour, standards and culture.  We need more integrity in the world and less platitude.

Thanks for reading and