Football is not religion, says judge as fan loses discrimination claim

He accused his boss of not giving him work shifts because they support different football teams, but this was not convincing enough for a contractor to win his claim of unfair dismissal and discrimination. 

A fan of the football team Glasgow Rangers has lost his claim of discrimination and unfair dismissal after he accused his Celtic-supporting boss of denying him shifts. Edward McClung carried out contract work for energy construction firm Doosan Babcock through a recruiting firm from January to June 2019. McClung alleged that his manager at Doosan Babcock, Donald Ross, did not offer him further employment because of his support for the rival team. His claim of unfair dismissal was struck out as he was self-employed and had fewer than two years’ qualifying service.

However, McClung also claimed he’d been discriminated against because of his support of Glasgow Rangers. He described it as a vital part of his existence and constituted a philosophical belief that should be protected under employment law. The court heard how McClung had subscribed to Sky Sports, listened to podcasts and never missed a match. He said that supporting Rangers was a way of life – it gave him the drive to work so he could attend games, be charitable, support the team and be positive. Employment Judge Wiseman acknowledged that enjoying the pre-match build-up and singing songs at matches are matters personal to Mr McClung, calling them “subjectively important”. However, for football fandom to be considered a philosophical belief and so a protected characteristic, it needed to undergo the ‘Grainger test’. 

The test states that a belief must meet five conditions to qualify: 

  • It must be genuinely held 
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint 
  • It must be a belief as to a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour 
  • It must attain a certain level of seriousness and importance 
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society

Judge Wiseman was not satisfied that Mr McClung’s support for Glasgow Rangers met the second, third, fourth or fifth criteria. She summarised: “Mr McClung's support for Rangers is a lifestyle choice akin to support for a political party, and it has been established in previous cases that a particular political affiliation does not constitute a philosophical belief.” 

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