Supporting football is not a protected philosophical belief 


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An employment tribunal has held at a preliminary hearing in McClung v Doosan Babcock Ltd that supporting a football club does not amount to a protected philosophical belief.

The claimant supported Rangers for 42 years, was a member of the club and received yearly birthday cards from them. He never missed a match and spent most of his discretionary income on attendance at games, as well as watching them on tv. He believed that supporting Rangers was a way of life and that it was as important to him as attending church is for religious people.

Although the tribunal found that the claimant's belief was genuinely held, it concluded that the remaining criteria under the case of Grainger plc v Nicholson (which sets out the criteria to be fulfilled when determining whether a belief qualifies for protection) were not satisfied. The explanatory notes to the Equality Act 2010 provide that adherence to a football team would not be a belief capable of protection. The claimant's support for Rangers was akin to support for a political party, which case law has made clear does not constitute a protected philosophical belief. The tribunal stated that support for a football club is a lifestyle choice and therefore did not represent a belief as to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and had no larger consequences for humanity as a whole. There was nothing to suggest that fans had to behave in a similar way; the only common factor was that fans wanted their team to do well, and so the belief lacked the required characteristics of cogency, cohesion and importance. Finally, support for Rangers did not invoke the same respect in a democratic society as matters such as ethnical veganism.

Take note: The case of Grainger plc and others v Nicholson is key when it comes to determining whether a belief qualifies for protection under the Equality Act 2010. In order for a belief to qualify for protection it has to fulfil the five Grainger criteria. It has to be genuinely held; be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint; be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour, and attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance. Finally it has to be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others. Following the decision in McClung it is clear that supporting a football team will not be a belief qualifying for protection.

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