Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood have certainly been pilloried in the media in the past week after they were sent home from Iceland following them sneaking two women through the England team’s security network.
What they did was obviously wrong and could well have comprised the national team’s participation in the match in Denmark as well as putting other players at risk, so I have no doubt they will be punished by Gareth Southgate and omitted from future England squads. In Foden’s case, he also must deal with the personal ramifications of explaining what happened to his partner with whom he has a daughter.
They have learnt a very harsh lesson and if the women either want to tell all the details of their liaison, or sell their stories, then you cannot blame the media for wanting to report the story. But with two players who are so young they also need support and more importantly a guiding hand at this time. Those of us who have sons and daughters will know that at some stage in their teenage years they needed putting back in the right direction at times.
One lesson the England hierarchy and others might learn from this episode is a more careful handling of the player rooming lists. With most teams, players are paired up in rooms. Younger players coming into the squad should perhaps be paired with a senior player. Senior players act as role models and mentors as they have generally experienced some of the same issues whilst growing up and can spot a problem before it arises.
I faced a similar situation in my time as CEO at Charlton with two players sneaking women into their room the night before an important Premier League game and we dealt with the matter internally. It also meant rooming lists were given closer scrutiny and not just be based on the players preferred roommate.
More difficult was the challenge posed by players found guilty of drug taking and there are two schools of thought in dealing with this. One is to immediately terminate the contract of a player found guilty and the other is to put them through an awareness and education programme to teach them the dangers of drug taking and to rehabilitate them. It is not an easy balance and in my time at Charlton there were outside pressures from bodies like The FA who at that time believed the action needed was to impose the strongest possible sanction to send a message and be a deterrent to others.
Gambling is also an issue and not only in football and whilst the gaming companies have done much to develop their compliance processes and to ensure any gambling is responsible, we all know in some cases it is not.
Foden and Greenwood have made a mistake and will be punished for it but it is equally important that we recognise their age and those of us who have children or even grandchildren know the challenges and peer pressure facing young people these days but let both players now prove they have learnt a painful lesson and intend to learn from it.
Peter Varney – Chairman Integral Sports Management
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