Cricket Umpires Appeal Decision To Be Called 'Out' At 65

Employment Tribunal Considers Whether Umpires Should Be Forced To Retire

04.02.2015

David Shirt, Press Officer | 0161 838 3094

The issue of whether cricket umpires should be forced to retire at the age of 65 is being considered by an employment tribunal.

Peter Willey (65) and George Sharp (64), who have umpired 40 international matches between them and  have over 40 years of experience of officiating first class cricket matches,  have taken the ECB to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal and age discrimination.

According to the game’s governing body, cricket umpires should be forced to retire at the age of 65 because their reactions become “too slow for the game”.

Speaking at the Employment Tribunal, the ECB’s umpires manager, Chris Kelly, said it was perfectly justified in ending the men’s umpiring careers at the age of 65.

Mr Kelly told the hearing: “There’s a need to react speedily at times, and we wouldn’t want to put anyone at risk unnecessarily. It’s common sense. I used to be able to run for long periods of time, now I can’t because I’m older.

“At that age it’s not easy to stand for long games. A lot of older umpires have told me they feel the days are getting longer. The physical and mental pressures are greater.”

Government legislation introduced in 2011 abolished the default retirement age. The rules meant that employers were unable to force male employees to stop work at 65 unless they could objectively justify the decision.

Expert Opinion
It will be interesting to see what the outcome of these cases are. On the face of it, the decision to force people to retire and in effect maintain a default retirement age is discriminatory. In order to defend the claims, the ECB will need to persuade the Tribunal that the decision to do so is 'justified' at the age of 65."

"In order to do so, the ECB will need to show that there is a 'legitimate aim' being pursued by the ECB. Legitimate aims are broadly regarded as being split in to two broad categories of inter-generational fairness (e.g. it blocks access to employment for younger people, allows the sharing out of opportunities fairly between the generations etc.); and dignity (e.g. it avoids the need to dismiss employees on the grounds they are no longer capable of doing the job which may be humiliating to the employee concerned).

"From the comments above, it seems like the ECB are adopting the latter argument, but even if they can persuade the Tribunal that is the case, the Tribunal will still need to be concerned with the question of whether the 'means' chosen to pursue that aim (to forcibly retire at 65 rather than say 67, or judge everyone on their merits capability wise) is an appropriate and necessary (proportionate) means of achieving that aim. It remains to be seen whose argument 'bowls them over'."
Glenn Hayes, Partner