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Is supporting a football club, a philosophical belief?

In the case of Mr E McClung v Doosan Babcock Ltd, the Employment Tribunal considered whether someone supporting a particular football team can be deemed a philosophical belief in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. In which case, it would offer employees protection from discrimination and unfair treatment.

The circumstances

In this case, Mr McClung provided work for Doosan Babcock as a subcontractor. He was a lifelong supporter of Glasgow Rangers Football Club. A manager at Doosan Babcock, who was a Celtic fan, did not continue to offer him further work and Mr McClung alleged that it was because of his support for Glasgow Rangers.

He claimed unfair dismissal and discrimination. He cited that because his support for the football team was so strong and intrinsic to his life, having supported the team for just over 40 years, that it amounted to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act.

The judgement

The legal test that was considered in this case, was one which came from a previous tribunal ‘Nicholson v Grainger case’. What this test highlighted was that in order for there to be a belief, the person’s belief must be:

  1. Genuinely held
  2. Not an opinion or viewpoint
  3. Be a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  4. Must have a certain level of seriousness and importance
  5. Must be worthy of respect in a democratic society
  6. Not conflict with fundamental rights of others.

The tribunal deemed that Mr McClung did not meet the threshold fully as he only met the first and sixth. The judge considered that his support for a football club was more like a lifestyle choice rather than being a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

The judge concluded that support for Rangers Football club was therefore not deemed a philosophical belief for the purpose of the Equality Act 2010.

Mr McClung has confirmed that he will appeal.

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