Employment status – football referee

Jahad Rahman summarises the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Conroy v Scottish Football Association, which concerned the employment status of a football referee.

The following article was published in Daniel Barnett’s Employment Law Bulletin:

Is a football referee an employee under the Employment Rights Act 1996?

No, held the EAT in Conroy v Scottish Football Association.

The Claimant, a football referee lodged a claim of unfair dismissal, age discrimination and holiday pay. The preliminary issue was whether Mr Conroy was an employee of the Scottish Football Association (“SFA”) within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The SFA argued that he was self-employed.

The EAT dismissed Mr Conroy’s appeal and upheld the decision of the Employment Tribunal that he was not an employee for the purposes of the ERA 1996 but an employee for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 (the definition under the EQA 2010 is considerably wider as it includes situations where the worker in question is technically self-employed) and a worker for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The EAT held that the Tribunal properly considered all of the matters and found some facts which could indicate employment, such as the provision of health insurance and the fact that referees are not entitled to send a substitute for any match. However, the Tribunal found other factors pointing away from a contract of employment, such as the lack of disciplinary procedures, the fact that Mr Conroy purchased his own flags, whistles and notebooks and his right to decline matches and the SFA’s right to refrain from offering him any matches at which to officiate.

Stacey HHJ concluded by saying that it is perfectly possible for a regulatory body such as the SFA “to have standards and rules which a referee must meet and adhere to without him being employed by it”.

If you are a football referee or a regulatory body and would like further advice on employment status issues, then please call our employment law solicitors for a confidential discussion on 0207 956 8699 or email info@rllaw.co.uk. Our solicitors are registered FA lawyers and have invaluable insights of the sports industry and associated litigation.

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