Supporting Rangers is not a philosophical belief, rules an employment tribunal

A contractor has lost an employment tribunal claim for discrimination after the judge ruled that supporting a football team was not a philosophical belief.

The contractor alleged that energy construction firm Doosan Babcock failed to provide him with work because he supported Rangers football team, when the manager responsible for him was a fan of Celtic. He also claimed that he was told by a colleague that he was “unusually okay for a Rangers fan”.

 

The initial claim of unfair dismissal was struck out because the contractor was self-employed and he had fewer than two years’ qualifying service.

 

It was necessary for the judge to determine if his support for Rangers was a philosophical belief, the contractor claiming that being a football fan was “a massive part of his life”.

The Claimant told the tribunal he was living his life “in accordance with being a Rangers fan” and went on to claim that his support for Rangers was a philosophical belief as he was quoted saying: “I don’t go to church. I go to Rangers. It’s a belief to me. He subscribed to Sky Sports and watched matches and pre and post-match interviews, listened to podcasts and never missed a match, stating that being a fan set an example to others in terms of striving to be the best, giving respect and commitment. He went on to say that spending money and travelling to see games was a vital aspect of his life.

He also submitted evidence that supporting Rangers was a way of life.

In order to determine whether being a football fan was a philosophical belief and therefore classified as a protected characteristic, the claimant’s belief needed to pass what is known as ‘the Grainger test’ which states that the belief has to adhere to five conditions to qualify:

  • it must be genuinely held;
  • it must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
  • it must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance;
  • and it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society

The tribunal found that the Claimant’s support for Rangers did not meet the second, third, fourth or fifth criteria.

The judge acknowledged that being a football fan meant a lot to him, but stated that it did not “represent a belief as to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life.” She went on to say it was “a lifestyle choice” or “akin to support for a political party” and “does not constitute a philosophical belief”.

It seems that the Claimant was passionate about his team but was unable to persuade the tribunal that being a football fan was a belief system that related to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. He therefore was not protected by the Equality Act 2010.

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