Ramadan in football: a singular management of religion at work?

Ramadan in football a singular management of religion at work

Ramadan, which ended on April 21, had its share of controversy in the world of Football professional. Should we, for example, give breaks to allow active players to hydrate?

In a reminder to the referees, the French Football Federation (FFF) clarified that stopping matches for this reason – which was not explicitly requested by the players – was not acceptable, under the neutrality of football and the desire to keep sport and religion at a distance.

This email, for example, aroused the astonishment of the international defender Lucas Digne which stated in an Instagram story:

"2023 we can stop a match for 20 minutes for decisions but not 1 minute to drink water."

In England, where he plays, a different choice was made. Whether the rules are loose or stricter, players sometimes deliberately choose to kick the ball into touch to allow the often few observant Muslims to break their fast on the edge of the pitch without interrupting play. , him, simulated discomfort in the middle of a match for this.

Even more, recently, the coach of FC Nantes has removed a player who observed Ramadan on a match day, considering that he had laid down this rule to protect both his health and his performance, and therefore those of the team. Opposite, some highlight the exceptional performance of players like Karim Benzema who claim to practice fasting. They would be examples of the absence of negative effects on the level of play, or even of positive effects.

The charges of racisme launched against Christophe Galtier, the coach of Paris Saint-Germain, last year in Nice, by the former sports director of the Riviera Julien Fournier, also got involved. This case shows to what extent the question of the management of religion at work is linked to that of freedom of worship but above all to the fight against discrimination, which makes the subject very sensitive.

However, from the point of view of researchers on the management of religious expression at work, these various cases relayed in the press remain in fact fairly standard.

The religious fact at work: a generally peaceful regulation

Le religious fact at work refers to people's manifestations of faith in their professional context. It can be prayers in the workplace, wearing a religious sign or even requests for scheduling or absence to practice. Some elements are more diffuse because there is no explicit reference to their religious character, but they can still be identified as such by other actors.

In fact, the religious fact at work is generally low conflict, and is most often set with the intervention of local management. This can be based on a posture more or less defined and implemented in the organization. Management is often done at theindividual scale and is not intended to violate the rules in place in organizations. Only a minority of facts do so and receive a quick and firm response from the hierarchy.

Some companies thus choose to regulate religious expression more or less explicitly in the context of work on the basis of criteria defined by the legislator and case law (safety, hygiene, commercial interest, etc.). They can, for this, use the rules of procedure or guides. However, by virtue of the principle of secularism, what prevails outside public service missions is freedom of conscience, always accompanied by freedom of worship.

Religious in professional football: nothing new!

The manifestations of the faith of football players in the context of their work are not new subjects. For many years, including in the French Championship, the teams have been multicultural, multi-denominational, and quite simply very diverse. Questions of identity cannot stay at the door of the company, even when it takes the form of a green grass field and thousands of people pay to watch its employees work.

This is all the more true when the players have all the characteristics of what are called "high performers", or even "talents". This gives them fairly strong bargaining power and reduces individual-organization asymmetries. Many players thus celebrate their goals by referring to their beliefs, or by directly praising the god they pray to, for example by raising their index fingers to the sky.

Some players also have for habit of bowing down after a goal, individually or collectively, as a sign of adoration, such as Liverpool star striker Mohamed Salah. There are even sports media that create typical teams by religion. This is indeed a religious fact at work.

More so, some footballers have consistently cited their faith as a resource for motivation and commitment. The French player Olivier Giroud frequently mentions his evangelical Christian faith as a lever of appeasement and patience when the sports results are not at the rendezvous. He even made a book of it. We finally got to hear about "doping by religion" in the world of football.

A complex phenomenon

The controversies that have crossed the world of football lately are reminiscent of the questions asked by HRDs for trades where physical and psychological fatigue potentially exposes workers in the performance of their duties. In some clubs, including in France, the management of Ramadan is done in conjunction with the player, by adapting the diet and workouts.

Various case studies recall some well-known elements in management of religion at work. First, that it is important to define a rule, to communicate it and to guarantee its application, then to assume it. Without judging the content of the rule, the FFF has, as such, made a choice and is able to justify it, whether or not we agree with it.

Then, the management of religious behavior at work raises the question of the relationship between common rules and individual rules. Stopping the game for all, for example, changes the common rules of the game in favor of an individual religious rule. Being tolerant about the throw-in time after a ball out so that players who want to can break their fast and hydrate maintains the common rule but shows the collective will to understand particularities, to give them a place but not the priority.

Excluding an employee who is fasting from the group, even by displaying it publicly, may seem dissonant compared to other teams and contexts which adapt the practices of technical staff or food plans to the constraints of the player. Exemptions from participation in double training could also be decreed. On the one hand, individual identity makes it possible to free oneself from a collective rule, on the other the working conditions adapt to it. Two accommodations that are not of the same nature.

In football, as elsewhere, the management of the religious fact at work and its management, raise issues of maintaining equity between all people, whether or not they are believers or practitioners, of managing the irreversibilities that can generate more or less reasonable accommodations and more generally, respect for individual beliefs and their support as long as these do not contravene the rules of collective operation and the purpose of the organization in question.

Hugo gaillard, Senior Lecturer in Management Sciences, Le Mans University et Lionel honore, University Professor, IAE of Brest, University of Western Brittany, LEGO, IAE Brest

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Marco Iacobucci Epp

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