As football World Cup fever mounts (really??) and we come to the final chapters of another enthralling Six Nations championship, it struck me how football and rugby are so similar and yet worlds apart. Both are intensely physical sports played by athletes at the peak of their physical fitness. Both reach a global audience. Both offer participants short periods in the spotlight with the threat of career ending injury hanging over them with every game.
But look more closely and they couldn’t be further apart. Aside from the obvious differences (shape of ball, one involves throwing and scoring points by getting the ball over the bar rather than under it), there are some more fundamental ones which define the attraction of one over another. The undisputed best current young British rugby league player has just joined Bath for a world record fee of £270,000. The last time that was the ceiling paid for a footballer, Jimmy Saville was the most popular person in the UK. Rugby players are routinely substituted with well over a third of the game to go, and don’t take to Twitter to complain about their treatment. And the French have dropped one of their best players for sarcastically clapping the referee when he was sent off two weeks ago.
Given how badly the French have been playing, you could argue that this is just another example of the illogical way the French mind works, but the comments of Phillipe Saint-Andre, the coach and one of France’s finest ever players, are both welcome and enlightening. “Certain attitudes have no place whatsoever in our sport” he said. “Respect is the foundation of our values. It is important to send a signal to all players who have the privilege of wearing the jersey and remind them it imposes duties and obligations.”
Ever heard Arsene Wenger say that? Or any other football manager, other than “Mad dog” Holloway or Tony Pulis? Incidentally, Pulis fined two of his players for diving in a recent game. The point is that both sports need a human being in the middle of the pitch to arbitrate and enforce the laws of the game; they are essential for the game to take place at all. How many GT Continentals would Bentley sell if no-one was prepared to referee football matches?
Without respect, there is nothing, and this goes equally well for business. You don’t have to like someone to do business with them, but you cannot do business with someone for whom you have no respect. A client for whom I have recruited for over ten years is a misogynist and a slave driver, but he respected what I did because no matter how niche the assignment or how tough his selection process, I always found people who wanted to work for him and who he wanted to employ. He started the company in his front bedroom, and sold it for £25m, and I respected him for his single-mindedness and ambition. It didn’t mean I liked him, or that the assignments were any easier, but I was happy to earn his respect.
Certain professions have extremely high respect ratings – heart surgeons, firemen – and others do not – estate agents, traffic wardens, recruitment consultants. But these professions exist because they are needed by society; to market and sell your house, to enforce parking restrictions to ensure the steady flow of traffic and the safety of children and parents walking to school, to help people back into work and to find the missing piece of the jigsaw that will turn your business from also ran into world beater.
There is a cost involved with all three of these above, and it is clearly outlined before you begin anything – there is a fee if your house is sold, if you break the law you will be given a defined penalty, if you take someone on through a recruitment consultancy there will be something to pay. If you don’t believe in paying fees for recruiting people, don’t ask a recruitment consultancy to supply CVs or candidates. I won’t get upset if you tell me that is your viewpoint – in fact I will respect you for that, both the decision and the fact that you were upfront and honest with me.
At the end of the day there are a lot of companies out there looking to recruit staff, and some are happy to pay fees while others are not. In order to focus the efforts I make to find candidates new roles, I need to work with that section of the market who respect what I do as a profession and are happy to pay for those professional services. I can still respect those that don’t use recruitment agencies, either through cost concerns or because their brand name attracts sufficient suitable applicants (JLR and JCB don’t use recruitment consultancies, because they have a waiting list of people who want to work for them).
Respect is what keeps the wheels in motion. And Aretha Franklin in royalty cheques.