Andre Gray Hits The Headlines For The Wrong Reasons

Employment and Sport Law Experts React To Striker’s Use Of Social Media


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Expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have said that Andre Gray’s job would likely to be under threat if his career wasn’t in football after the resurfacing of offensive comments that should act as a reminder of the importance of educating young players on the use of social media. 

Burnley striker Andre Gray scored his first ever goal in the Premier League at the weekend but the headlines after the game were focused on his behaviour off the pitch rather than on it.

Whilst the 25 year old was putting in a man of the match performance against Liverpool, a series of offensive tweets were re-shared from his account on Twitter.

The tweets, some of which were homophobic in nature, were sent from Gray’s account in 2012 when he played for non-league Hinckley United.

The tweets were deleted on Saturday night but by that point they had already been shared thousands of times.   

Shortly after the game, Gray issued a statement on Twitter apologising and stating that he is a completely different person to the one who posted those comments years ago.

This comes just a month after he criticised two Burnley fans for racism during a pre-season friendly.

Glenn Hayes, an employment expert at Irwin Mitchell believes that although it is incredibly unlikely that Andre Gray will lose his job, the episode will still have a potentially negative effect on him and his club.

Expert Opinion
“Saturday must have been a very surreal day for Andre Gray; a young player who went from the highs of scoring his first ever goal in the Premier League to the lows of having to issue a statement asking “for forgiveness”.

“It could be said that he had two career defining incidents in just one day. The financial reward for players in England’s top division is greater than ever before and even before his goal the young, in-form English striker was being linked with a move to Arsenal.

“With the transfer window still open and Sam Allardyce about to name his first ever England squad, this was the perfect time for Gray to perform on the pitch and leave his representatives to ask whether he has a contract that reflects his new found status in the professional game.

“However, such was the offensive nature of the tweets from his account that Burnley could now have potential grounds to terminate, rather than improve, his contract.

“We know football operates in a vacuum away from the rest of the world but if senior figures at Burnley felt his comments would have the potential for reputational damage to the club then there are a range of options open to them.

“It’s extremely unlikely that Burnley would want to lose such a valuable asset whose goals will help their attempt to stay in the Premier League and therefore risk millions of pounds in prize money and sponsorship.

“As the incident didn’t happen whilst Gray was at Burnley, it is likely that they will warn him internally about future conduct and possibly ask him to attend equality training.

“Ultimately it is an embarrassing incident for Andre Gray and could easily impact on any local and national sponsorship deals he has in place."
Glenn Hayes, Partner

Thomas Barnard, a specialist sports lawyer at Irwin Mitchell feels that the reaction to his comments act as a reminder of the importance of educating players about the use of social media.

Expert Opinion
“All businesses, regardless of their industry, need to be alive to the potential reputational damage that can be caused by such issues and should have clear guidance and policies in place to ensure those working for them understand what is acceptable.

“Although Gray’s comments were shared before he was at Burnley, a link to his club appears on his profile page and there is no mention about any comments being his own.

“Some fans could therefore wrongly interpret that the club shared Andre Gray’s views which is hugely embarrassing and explains why Burnley issued a statement to confirm that they do ‘not condone any discriminatory behaviour by any employee’.

“Football is a unique business and it can lead to young men suddenly becoming famous and under the public spotlight almost overnight. It’s vital that all professional clubs have programmes in place to educate them about what is and is not acceptable to share on social media and the potential damage any offensive comments could cause to their career.”
Tom Barnard, Associate