A football player has launched a claim for discrimination and unfair dismissal against his former employer after his fixed-term contract at the football club was not renewed.
Mark McCammon, 33, a Barbados international forward, signed for Gillingham in 2008 on a three-year contract. He was released at the end of this contract, presumably in 2011 and has subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal and race discrimination against both Gillingham and the chairman of Gillingham, Paul Scally, in the Employment Tribunal.
Mr McCammon, who has formerly played for Charlton, Swindon, Millwall and Brighton, has claimed that the basis for the discrimination claim is that both he and other black players at Gillingham were treated differently from white footballers. It is believed that he will state that he was discriminated against both throughout his employment and at the time of his dismissal. He has indicated that black players were treated less favourably than white players in terms of the terms of his contract when Gillingham were relegated, what medical treatments were available, and punishments he received when he missed training.
A claim for direct discrimination (less favourable treatment because of Mr McCammon’s protected characteristic) is believed to be being pursued, although it is not clear whether a claim for indirect discrimination is also being pursued. Mr McCammon would have to demonstrate in a claim for direct discrimination that he was treated less favourably than other comparable white employees in the club because of his colour. The examples of the treatments meted out above (if Mr McCammon were to prove that these took place on the balance of probabilities) would prove helpful in demonstrating on the balance of probabilities that he was treated less favourably than comparable white employees.
Mr McCammon is also pursuing a claim for unfair dismissal after his contract of employment was terminated after the expiry of the fixed three-year term. This presumably forms part of the basis of his discrimination claim but unfairly refusing to renew a fixed-term contract is a claim in its own right in the Employment Tribunal. However, the important point is that Mr McCammon must show that the failure to renew was unfair. He would probably use the evidence of his treatment prior to the expiry of the contract of evidence of unfairness. If Mr McCammon were to show that the treatment was unfair on the balance of probabilities then Gillingham could defend this by stating that the treatment could be justified on objective grounds – that the treatment had a legitimate objective, it was necessary to achieve this objective, and appropriate to achieve this objective. Gillingham were relegated to the third division (“League Two”) of the football league in 2008 and have remained there since. They would therefore probably argue that financial constraints made the failure to renew the fixed term contract necessary and appropriate. If Mr McCammon were to prove unequal treatment, though, it may make it difficult for Gillingham to show that their behaviour was appropriate or legitimate.