Listed Events and Age Discrimination In Football

Published 19 September 2010

Article by Kenny Scott of Shepherd and Wedderburn

Sports and Olympic Minister, Hugh Robertson, indicated on 21 July 2010 that a final policy decision on the listed events consultation could now be deferred until after the switchover from analogue to digital TV. That switch is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

The outcome and impact of the BBC's strategy review and OFCOM pay TV review are also likely to be awaited and considered prior to Government policy being finalised.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) consultation in respect of the list of events which must be shown on free-to-air television closed on 19 March 2010. 

A listed event is described by DCMS as one which "is generally felt to have special national resonance" and has "an element which serves to unite the nation, a shared point on the national calendar, not solely of interest to those who follow the sport in question." 

The first list was published in 1956. 

An Independent Advisory Panel chaired by David Davies (former Executive Director of the Football Association) published its review of the free-to-air listed events in November 2009. That review recommended that: 

* The current system of two lists (whereby certain events must be shown live on free-to-air coverage available to 95% of the UK population and other events must have some form of secondary highlights coverage on free-to-air) be replaced by one list of events of national resonance. 
* The list of protected events is reviewed more frequently. 
* In deciding whether to list an event, the costs and benefits to the sports concerned must be considered. 
* The recommended list of protected events comprises 12 events, including the Summer Olympics, Home Ashes Test matches, the Grand National, Wimbledon and The Open Golf Championship.

Four football linesmen (or to give them their official title, "assistant referees") have won their challenge against a default retirement age of 48 imposed by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body which provides referees for professional football.

Officials can apply to be retained beyond age 48 but if they are refused (and any appeal is unsuccessful) then they can no longer continue as elite officials. An employment tribunal has found that the practice of retiring officials at age 48 was discriminatory on the grounds of age. 

PGMOL was not able to justify the retirement age. The tribunal accepted that PGMOL had a legitimate aim of trying to ensure that younger referees could progress to the elite panel. However, PGMOL was unable to establish that they had deployed a proportionate means of achieving this aim. The tribunal was not satisfied that there had to be a mandatory retirement age and even if it was appropriate, whether age 48 was the appropriate age. No specific scientific evidence was led to show that performance levels of officials deteriorated at that age and PGMOL could not show why age 48 should be chosen, rather than any other age. 

The tribunal noted that the Netherlands has had no default retirement age for football match officials since 2000. On the other hand, FIFA has a mandatory retirement age of 45. A further tribunal hearing will determine whether the officials are reinstated or compensated by PGMOL.