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McCammon Judgement: Football Still Suffering from Racial Discrimination

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

On 3 September 2013, Gillingham Football Club lost an appeal ruling that their sacking of Mark McCammon for gross misconduct was an act of racial discrimination.

Football has made much headway with improving its reputation regarding the prevalence of racism, particularly at its highest levels but this case shows that there is still some way to go.

The McCammon case also highlights the importance of anti-discrimination laws in rooting out all forms of discrimination whatever the work environment.

Background to McCammon’s Claim against Gillingham FC

The Barbados international forward Mark McCammon had taken Gillingham FC to an employment tribunal last year where he won £68,728 in a discrimination claim. His dismissal by the club in 2011 was judged to be an act of racial victimisation.

It was also ruled that the League One Club had racially discriminated against Mr McCammon, both in refusing to pay Mr McCammon’s private medical bills following injury and by ordering him (and two other black players) to come into the ground to train in treacherous snowy driving conditions.

This decision by the original tribunal was upheld in this recent appeal hearing.

Unequal Treatment at Work

After the original hearing last year, Mr McMammon stated that black players at the club, including himself, were treated differently from white players.

In employment law, under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of his/her race at work. Discrimination in this context is defined as treating someone less favourably than others.

Racial Discrimination in Football

Football clubs have been associated with alleged and actual racist incidents enough to warrant reactionary campaigns such as Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football.

Incidents last year included a man racially abusing Chelsea’s Didier Drogba during the 2011-2012 FA Cup semi-final, Bolton’s Marvin Sordell claiming he was racially abused by a young boy, and that a Chelsea fan was caught making a monkey impression at Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck.

Under the Equality Act 2010, discrimination applies to all working environments, and the onus is on the employer to make reasonable adjustments. That a player is forced, by virtue of his appearance on the pitch, to be the victim of racist abuse and discrimination is illegal under the terms of the act. Likewise, an explicit provision in the Act prohibits an employer victimising an employee by dismissing the employee or subjecting the employee to any other detriment.

Racial Discrimination in Sport

The UK, in 2010, was one of at least four EU member states (including Estonia, Finland, and Italy) where courts and/or employment tribunals had decided on cases involving discrimination claims in sport. This issues under contention in the EU included the allocation of funding, the refused enrollment in a dance sport club, and the refusal of reappointing a referee of Asian origin.

With the increasing awareness of discrimination in sport in general, there has arisen an increasingly vigilant administration and voluntary sector.

Furthermore, as Mark McCammon’s case shows, employment tribunals have been willing to punish any form of discrimination harshly, and especially where this damages the player’s career. Anyone who feels that they have been treated unfairly by their employer or employers facing discrimination claims should seek expert legal advice; please contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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