Mills & Reeve’s sports law team help ex-Premier League footballer in successful disability discrimination claim

We advised ex-Newcastle United player Jonas Gutierrez in his successful disability discrimination claim, which centred on how the former Argentina international was treated after his battle against testicular cancer.

The player launched his claim under the Equality Act 2010, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against workers because of mental or physical disability, and considers a cancer diagnosis to be a disability. 

In its ruling the tribunal said: “We find as a fact therefore that the respondent was deliberately managing the claimant’s selection to prevent him triggering the option [of extension]. We concluded that the reason why the respondent managed the claimant’s selection was because they had no longer wanted him at the club because of his cancer.” 

Carol Couse, sports law consultant who attended every day of the tribunal alongside Jonas Gutierrez, said: "Having battled cancer on two occasions and subsequently suffered unfair treatment by the club as a result of this, Jonas is pleased that the employment tribunal has today found in his favour and held that he was indeed discriminated against by Newcastle United due to his cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

“As he alleged, it has been determined by the tribunal that the Newcastle United board influenced team selection to prevent Jonas reaching the contractual trigger point to secure an extension to his contract and the evidence of Newcastle officials and ex-officials has been discredited. He wishes to place on record his thanks to all the Newcastle fans who have supported him throughout his case. 

“This case demonstrates that football is not above the reach of employment law and clubs should be mindful of their duties to treat their playing staff in the same way as they would treat any other employee.” 

In addition to the support of Spanish-speaking consultant Carol Couse, our team also included employment partner Richard Santy, senior associate Andrew Macdonald, and sports law executive Tiran Gunawardena.

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