For most of us, the idea of drinking alcohol whilst at work would be to stretch the imagination just a little too far. The days of long, boozy lunches in the pub and afternoons spent trying desperately to stay awake are very much a thing of the past, and our productivity is, if we are honest with ourselves, all the better for it. For those that own the means of production, however, there often seems to be a different set of rules.
Those that own a company have the licence – subject to any waves of bad publicity that may come with such behaviour – to do as they please, and the extent to which status is used as a fig leaf for pretty disgraceful behaviour remains higher than it ever should do in anything approaching a civilised country.
All of which brings us back to Eddie Mitchell, the chairman of AFC Bournemouth, who has found himself back in the headlines following further eccentric behaviour during his club’s home match against Milton Keynes Dons. At half-time during this match – with his side already trailing by a single goal – that the wife of the Russian co-owner Maxim Demin was allowed to give part of the half-time team talk to the players. After the match – which ended, perhaps unsurprisingly, in a defeat thanks to that first half goal – Mitchell was called by the BBC’s radio phone-in show 6-0-6 to explain the situation but had to be cut off after swearing at host Mark Chapman three times.
This isn’t the first time that Mitchell’s behaviour has put AFC Bournemouth into the spotlight for the wrong reasons this season. During a fans forum held by BBC Radio Solent in September of last year, he stated to Bournemouth supporters unhappy at his running of the club that, “if you don’t like it, go and support Southampton.” The team’s next home match against Chesterfield was, predictably enough, a tense affair at which the disquiet of the home support was made perfectly clear, to which Mitchell’s reaction – which, it has been suggested, was to be blamed in no small part upon the influence of alcohol – was to harangue the supporters at the end of the match with a microphone, including the use of such inflammatory language as, “why don’t you jump over the fence and come and have a chat with me? Come on then – one to one?”
What Mitchell had hoped to achieve with his latest bout of histrionics is difficult to quantify. His explanation for it was that, “It was half-time and I think in the second half we played as well as we did in the first half, so it didn’t affect the game. I think the people that are putting money into football are entitled to their say”, but this viewpoint obviously overlooks what should be the role of the manager, Lee Bradbury. Bradbury hasn’t been without his critics at Dean Court this season, having spent money without the team having lived up to expectations, but the bare fact of the matter is that this sort of behaviour isn’t – or shouldn’t be – acceptable from the chairman of any football club. Bradbury has had his authority undermined by the behaviour of his chairman (before we even get onto the fact that this particular “motivational speech” came from the wife of the co-owner rather than from anyone with any direct contact with the running of the club) and deserves – as any manager, indeed any employee – to be treated with greater respect than that.
His antics on the radio that evening have led to a written apology, but the question of what he thought he could possibly have hoped to achieve by dealing with a phone-in show in the way that he did remains. If alcohol consumption is the reason behind these outbursts, then Mitchell may find it prudent to lay off the drink on Saturday afternoons. As things stand, this sort of behaviour is only destabilising a club that still has a chance of making the play-off places at the end of this season. Indeed, it would be unsurprising if Bradbury was to decide that this sort of interference is beyond the pale for any manager to have to put up with. Moreover, this sort of behaviour can hardly be said to be the sort of thing that will instill supporters with much hope that he is the steadying hand on the tiller that this club needs. AFC Bournemouth is a club with a recent history of disastrous finances. Is the sort of atmosphere what Mitchell wants to surround the club? Because it seems unlikely to bring in the sort of increased crowds that would further secure its future.
In such circumstances, merely saying “get over it” is simply not good enough. AFC Bournemouth and its supporters deserve better than these periodic episodes of having the good name of the club dragged through the mud, and Mitchell has no defence against this sort of behaviour. If alcohol has been a contributing factor in his behaviour – and it has certainly been suggested elsewhere that it has, although he has denied it – then the only reasonable thing to suggest would be to either knock the drink on the head on match days or to not turn up for them at all. Quite asides from issues of decorum, appropriateness, embarrassing his club live on national radio and the small matter of the undermining of his manager at a critical point in the season, Mitchell’s behaviour only seems likely to land him in hot water with the Football League and the FA. After all, if getting thrown off a national radio station for swearing three times isn’t a matter of “bringing the game into disrepute”, then what is?
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