Ex-cricket umpires lose age case

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Published: Friday 13th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Two former cricket umpires fighting a decision to retire them from the game due to their age have lost their case of age discrimination against the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Peter Willey and George Sharp, who were forced to retire at 65 from their jobs as cricket umpires, had wanted to continue umpiring but it was ruled out after a tribunal decided that the decision to retire them was not unlawful discrimination or unfair dismissal.

At today’s tribunal, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) accepted the pair had been treated less favourably because of their age, but said its actions were justified because it wanted to ensure opportunities for succession planning and appointing new umpires.

But their union, Prospect, said it was disappointed by the judgment and will be considering it in more depth with the members and counsel.

George Sharp said: “I would like to thank Prospect for their professional help and support. They have been exceptional in their approach, dedication and understanding of my cause.”

Peter Willey added: “The union was great and it really shows how people need unions. We could not have taken the case without them.”

Former England Test batsman Peter Willey, 65, told the employment hearing last month that he would only want to quit the £51,270 job if he was not good enough.

Mr Willey, a former chairman of umpires who officiated in 25 Test matches during a cricket career spanning 49 years, said that time has not yet come.

He told the hearing in London: “I personally wouldn’t want to see umpires carry on until their standards drop just for the sake of it.

“I don’t want to carry on and leave the game with people thinking I wasn’t a very good umpire.

“When I finished my (playing) career at Leicestershire after 25 years I was asked to take the money and leave the club. For the last year and a half I was not a very good cricketer and I don’t want that to happen as an umpire.”

He added: “If I was performing at the highest level and helping other umpires as I was, I thought I would be a benefit to the game of cricket.”

Mr Willey and former colleague George Sharp, 64, who have 45 years of umpiring experience between them, were removed from the ECB’s first class umpire list for the 2015 season because they would both be aged 65 when the season started.

Both men told the tribunal that they did not intend to carry on indefinitely, but only wanted a two-year extension to their contracts, which could be reviewed after a year.

Mr Willey, who played 26 Tests for England between 1976 and 1986, added: “When you walk on to the field as a 25-year-old or a 65-year-old you can make a mistake. No one is perfect, unless you are a genius you are going to make mistakes.

“If you are an honest person and your sole interest is the game of cricket, you will have a fair idea of when your standards are dropping. The ECB should be strong enough to say, we don’t think you have kept your standards up.”

Mr Sharp, who is currently unemployed but taking a cricket scorer’s course, told the tribunal he would not want to still be umpiring when he was 70.

But he added: “At the moment my standards have not dropped, and at the end of the 2015 season I would know if my standards had dropped and I would go back to the board and discuss it.

“If they said ‘George, your standards have dropped, you have got to go’ I would say ‘thank you very much’.”

He added: “During my playing career, at the age of 35 I was offered a two-year contract by Northamptonshire.

“I turned it down because I knew that my standards were dropping and I went to work in the big wide world.”

Published: Friday 13th March 2015 by The News Editor

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