Peter Willey and George Sharp, both 65, brought their claims for unfair dismissal and age discrimination after they were compulsorily retired by the England & Wales Cricket Board’s (“ECB”) first-class umpire list as they were due to imminently reach the age of 65.
The pair’s claims came to the Central London Employment Tribunal earlier this year, with Mr Willey and Mr Sharp giving evidence before the tribunal panel. Mr Willey, who officiated 25 Test matches in a playing and umpiring career that spanned 49 years, stated that he should have been judged on his ability to perform in his role, rather than have been retired simply because he had reached a certain age.
The ECB contests the claims made by Mr Willey and Mr Sharp on the basis that it was justified in doing so because of the “mental and physical pressures” of the job, that the pair would have begun to find it difficult to react quickly to the professional game, and that they would have experienced difficulties in standing for long periods of time. However, Mr Kelly, the umpires manager at the ECB, admitted that the organisation had no evidence that umpires could no longer perform to high standards once they had reached pensionable age.
A former colleague of the pair, John Holder, 69, who retired aged 64 in September 2009, told the hearing that he believed that retiring umpires at 65 was “arbitrary” and that “however young or old umpires are, if they are good enough, they should be allowed to carry on”.
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “If employers decide to dismiss an employee because of their age then they should be able to objectively justify the decision by showing that this decision was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. However, the Claimant’s must show that there sufficient facts to infer that they have been treated less favourably than younger employees because of their age.”
The Employment Tribunal continues and a judgment is expected later this year.