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Football not the same as Veganism… who knew?

Capt. Kneesup

Capt. Kneesup

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As you might imagine, I was shocked by the Employment Tribunal judgement delivered in McClung v Doosan Babcock Ltd.

Caramba, I hear you cry. Not the Unfair dismissal claim by a Rangers supporter who wasn’t given time off by his Celtic-supporting line manager? The very same, says I.

Mr Eddie McClung was employed by Doosan Babcock as a self-employed contractor – I have no idea in what field he specialised, he might have been in charge of the Pasties, or he might have been operating the entire widget output. It matters not. What is important is that his contract was terminated in September 2019, and he then submitted a claim for unfair dismissal because his support of Glasgow Rangers Football Club constituted a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act. Sadly for Eddie, the tribunal held that the claimant’s support for the football team Rangers FC did not constitute a philosophical belief. As a result, Eddie did not qualify for protection under the Equality Act 2010. Those who follow such matters will know that under the Equality Act, it is unlawful to discriminate in the workplace due to an employee’s religious belief, philosophical belief or lack of religion or belief. If a philosophical belief is protected under the Equality Act, any prejudice experienced by an employee, as a result, could be classed as unlawful discrimination.

And here lies the nub – what constitutes a philosophical belief? To aid her judgment in this case, Judge L Wiseman referred to the case of Grainger plc v Nicholson 2010 IRLR 4 in which the five criteria necessary for qualification as a philosophical belief are laid out. The criteria are as follows:

  1. The belief must be genuinely held;
  2. It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
  3. It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  4. It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Using these five criteria, Judge Wiseman concluded that McClung’s support for Rangers FC satisfied the first point only. Therefore, his fandom did not count as a philosophical belief and was not protected by the Equality Act.

It was submitted by counsel for Doosan Babcock that support for Rangers was “support” and not a “belief” (and therefore did not meet the requirements of point 2 above). It was also deemed not to merit a sufficient level of cogency and not to be worthy of respect in a democratic society “because support for a football club, whilst not objectionable in any way, did not hold much importance to society when compared with weightier issues such as ethical veganism”.

The 2020 judgment from the case Mr J Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports determined that ethical veganism did meet the criteria for philosophical belief because “the relationship between humans and other fellow creatures is plainly a substantial aspect of human life, it has sweeping consequences on human behaviour, and clearly it is capable of constituting a belief which seeks to avoid the exploitation of fellow species”. It was submitted that while the claimant’s support of Rangers FC may be subjectively important to him, it did not represent a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and had no larger consequences for humanity as a whole, as described by the judge in the Casamitjana case. It was therefore argued that the support of a football club was fundamentally incompatible with this strand of the Grainger test.

Whilst being an ethical vegan requires substantial dedication and commitment (the claimant in the Casamitjana case not only followed a vegan diet but also used only vegan products and wore clothes made exclusively from sympathetic fibres), supporting a football team was compared to being simply vegetarian. Reference was made to the Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd case, in which vegetarianism was found to be a lifestyle choice. Similar to the Conisbee case, it was submitted that “…there were many different reasons behind vegetarianism without a single cohesive underpinning or belief”, which also applied to Mr McClung’s case as there are a wide array of Rangers football fans who will all have varying reasons behind their support and will show their support in different ways.

In a post-match analysis, David Sheppard and Myles Thomas at Capital Law opined that this result could well get the VAR treatment and have the verdict overturned.

In their opinion, whilst football is undoubtedly tribal, it also brings people together as part of a community and will form the central part and driving force for many supporters’ lives. If it could be shown that support for certain clubs was more than a strong wish for sporting success on the field, and if it becomes part of that person’s identity, politics and overall philosophical outlook, then it could be construed as a possible philosophical belief. The Old Firm rivalry is far from unique in football, and the bundle of political, religious and philosophical passionate positions (whether desirable or not) arguably elevates that support into a protected philosophical belief.

Barcelona FC’s motto is Mes Que Un Club (more than a Club), alluding to Catalan independence and its links to the Spanish Civil War. This illustrates well how some teams inspire in their supporters more than a desire to win a football competition and a lifestyle choice but also embody other broader philosophies.

Given this decision was made at an employment tribunal, it is not binding on other tribunals, and there is the potential for an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Scotland. This case could yet go into extra time and conclusively prove that Football supporters and Vegans have much in common.

Talking of a thin vegetable crop that often requires a great deal of manure to make it edible – here are today’s Champions Day tips from Ascot …

1.25pm The Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group 2) 1m 7f

I am reminded of the 6yo failures in this race from Stradivarius to Withhold and from Fame and Glory to Ile de Re. All 16 of the three-year-olds, all 20 of the six-year-olds, last-time-out handicap runners, and all the females are statistically negative and thinking of TRUESHAN; only one winner had a last-time run at Donny. (1W – 9P – 33R). On those trends alone, you could remove the top four in the market – albeit I’d have some reservations about removing COLTRANE. He has progressed all summer and has some super form to his name. The only blot on his copybook is QUICKTHORN, who spanked him in The Lonsdale Cup. QUICKTHORN’s success is down to a different riding style where he forces the pace from the front – and then stays there. Forget his Longchamp run – it was a swimming bath – anything better than 10s is value

QUICKTHORN 4pts e/w

2.00pm The Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1) 6f

The trends don’t leave us with much to play with – so from a shortlist of six, I’m going to narrow it down to CREATIVE FORCE – ROHAAN and GARRUS. The former won this last year, and he has a course record of 0112, goes well fresh, and benefits from Buick. ROHAAN is 4/5 on the course – his only defeat in this last year. 3rd in the Haydock Sprint and was impressive when dealing with Summerghand LTO. GARRUS ran a blinder at Deauville LTO just behind two very decent types. A number of these were behind him that day and his price is way too big.

ROHAAN 4 pts Win – GARRUS 2 pts e/w

2.40pm The Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) 1m 3 f

The horse I fancy SEA LA ROSA doesn’t make the trends, and of the four that make the cut, I’m taking just the one and dutching EMILY UPJOHN and SEA LA ROSA together. The latter arrives off a cracking season, adding the G1 Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp, making it four from five group victories. EMILY UPJOHN was disappointing in the King George LTO but the break will make a difference, and Frankie takes the ride.

Dutch EMILY UPHOHN and SEA LA ROSA for 7 points

3.20pm The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) (Sponsored By Qipco) (British Champions Mile) 1m

Very strong trends leave us just two INSPIRAL and MODERN GAME. The former appeared to go off the boil in July but took the Jaques La Marois at Deauville LTO, with the third from that going on to win a G2 LTO beating several of these in the process. MODERN GAMES won the French Guineas in May and then had a couple of distance issues in the Prix Jean Prat and Prix du Jockey Club. Back – finally – to a mile, he chased home Baeed in the Sussex Stakes and then went on to win the G1 Woodbine by 5l+.It’s the Colt for me and the forecast.

MODERN GAMES 3 pts win – 2 pts SFC to beat INSPIRAL

4.00pm The Qipco Champion Stakes (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1) 1m 1f

Interesting stats to remember:

  • 11/11 were in a 10lb band of the top-rated
  • 11/11 rated 117+
    • 9/11 rated 120+
  • 10/11 were aged 3-5yo (exception 6yo)

Only three runners meet the minimum 117 rating requirement; BAAEED – ADAYER – BAY BRIDGE but only ADYAER is within 10lbs. So the market is currently about right. Equally, there is no point in punting either of the other two beat BAAEED. So let’s consider Betting w/o BAAEED in the market. To that end, I’m thinking of Aiden O’Brien’s STONE AGE who took the Derby Trial at Leopardstown began the year mopping up a Derby Trial at Leopardstown and then, despite boiling over, came 6th in The Derby. If he’s allowed to race up with the pace, I can see him easily making a podium or fourth

STONE AGE 2 pts e/w 20/1 Betting w/o BAAEED

4.40pm The Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco) (Str) (Class 2) 1m

BLUE FOR YOU – SWEET BELIEVER Dutch the pair for 5 pts

 

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