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Are football fans protected under the Equality Act 2010?

October 5, 2022
Employment Law

A Scottish Employment Tribunal recently considered whether support for Rangers Football Club could amount to a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010. What did they find?

McClung v Doosan Babcock

Mr McClung worked for Doosan Babcock. After the relationship soured, McClung filed Employment Tribunal claims against the company, alleging that he had been unfairly dismissed and subjected to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief.

In relation to his discrimination claim, Mr McClung's arguments were twofold. Firstly, he claimed he was discriminated against on the grounds of his Protestant Christian beliefs. Secondly, and perhaps more surprisingly, he alleged he was discriminated against on the grounds of his support for Rangers FC. The question arose, therefore, as to whether this support for a football club could amount to a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010. 

In support of his claim, Mr McClung argued that he had been a Rangers fan for more than 40 years, never missing a game and spending a considerable amount of his disposable income on his passion for the club. He argued that this passion was a ‘massive’ part of his life.

Having considered arguments submitted by all sides to this dispute, the Judge concluded that Mr McClung’s support for Rangers FC was certainly genuine. However, it was found to be materially different from those beliefs normally protected by discrimination legislation. It did not amount to a belief in a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and did not attract the same level of respect in a democratic society. With these factors in mind, the judge ruled that Mr McClung’s support was not a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.

Do you agree? 

The legendary Liverpool FC manager, Bill Shankley, might have had something to say about this decision.  After all, when commenting on those who consider football to be a matter of life and death, he is alleged to have said: 

I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

Of course, others would disagree. We’re keen to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with the tribunal’s decision? Or would you have found in Mr McClung's favour? Let us know.

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