Is a football referee an employee under the ERA 1996?

No, held the EAT in Conroy v Scottish Football Association.
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Employment Status: Football Referee

Thanks to Jahad Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors for preparing this case summary
Is a football referee an employee under the ERA 1996?

No, held the EAT in Conroy v Scottish Football Association.

The Claimant, a football referee, lodged a claim of unfair dismissal, age discrimination and holiday pay. The preliminary issue was whether Mr Conroy was an employee of the Scottish Football Association ('SFA') within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The SFA argued that he was self-employed.

The EAT dismissed Mr Conroy's appeal and upheld the decision of the employment tribunal that he was not an employee for the purposes of the ERA 1996. However, he was held to be an employee for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and a worker for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The EAT held that the employment tribunal had properly considered all of the matters and found facts which could indicate employment, such as the provision of health insurance and the fact that referees are not entitled to send a substitute for any match.

However, the employment tribunal found other factors pointing away from a contract of employment, such as the lack of disciplinary procedures, the fact that Mr Conroy purchased his own flags, whistles and notebooks, his right to decline matches and the SFA's right to refrain from offering him any matches at which to officiate.

Lady Stacey concluded by saying that it is perfectly possible for a regulatory body such as the SFA "to have standards and rules which a referee must meet and adhere to without him being employed by it".

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The successful candidate will be a qualified solicitor, advocate or barrister with substantial experience of: advising employers on the full spectrum of employment law issues; representing clients at the Employment Tribunal; and delivering client-focussed employment law training. Above all, you should be an excellent team player with a ‘can-do’ outlook.

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Daniel Barnett is a barrister with 20 years’ experience litigating and advising in employment, HR and associated litigation. He is primarily a litigator, described in legal directories as “tenacious”, “inexhaustible” and “an excellent advocate” (see testimonials). He has been instructed by a Royal Family, international airlines, various FTSE-250 companies, local authorities, NHS Trusts, as well as a myriad of SMEs. Employee clients range from senior executives of quoted companies through to David & Victoria Beckham’s nanny. His specific areas of interest are post-termination restrictive covenants, age discrimination and retirement issues, industrial law (strikes), employment agencies and permanent health insurance disputes. He practises from Outer Temple Chambers, a highly regarded set of Chambers in London.
Outer Temple Chambers’ employment and discrimination team is an important player in the field. We have acknowledged expertise representing both employer and employee, covering all aspects of collective and individual employment law, including High Court breach of contract and injunction proceedings, and all aspects of individual and collective employment rights.

We appear regularly in the civil courts and tribunals, before the Central Arbitration Committee, all appellate courts, and in mediations. Members of our team also accept instructions to act as external decision-makers, and to advise public and private sector employers and service-providers.

Major test-cases in which members of the team appeared in 2010 include British Airways v Williams [2010] UKSC 16, which will determine the holiday pay of thousands of individuals across the aviation industry; Sagoo & ors v Birmingham City Council, believed to be the largest of the vast multi-claimant local authority equal pay cases; and USA v Nolan [2010] EWCA Civ 1223, which will affect the consultation rights of workers across Europe in relation to redundancy.

Members of Chambers who advise and represent in employment law disputes, listed in order of call (experience), are:-

  • Richard Lissack QC
  • Gerard McDermott QC
  • Andrew Short QC
  • Keith Bryant QC
  • Mark Mullins
  • Natasha Joffe
  • Daniel Barnett
  • Naomi Cunningham
  • Andrew Allen
  • Benjimin Burgher
  • Lydia Seymour
  • David Grant
  • James Arnold
  • Naomi Ling
  • Oliver Assersohn
  • Eleanor Davison
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  • Farhaz Khan
  • Saul Margo
  • Ben Bradley
  • Clare Baker
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  • Robert Dickason
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Please see for further details.
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