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Supporting A Football Club Is Not A Protected Philosophical Belief

An employee’s support of a football club did not amount to a protected philosophical belief within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.

Case: McClung v Doosan Babcock Ltd and others 2019

Mr McClung had supported Rangers Football Club (Rangers) for 42 years, was a member of the club and received annual birthday cards from them. He never missed a match and spent most of his discretionary income on attendance at games, as well as watching them on television. He believed supporting Rangers was a way of life and as important to him as attending church is for religious people.


The Employment Tribunal

The employment tribunal held that although the belief was genuinely held, the remaining criteria to establish whether such belief could amount to a protected philosophical belief were not satisfied. The tribunal referred to the explanatory notes of the Equality Act 2010 which provided that adherence to a football team would not be a belief capable of protection.

The definition of “support” (being “actively interested in and concerned for the success of” a particular sports team) contrasted with the definition of “belief” (being “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof”). Mr McClung’s support for rangers was akin to support for a political party which case law had made clear does not constitute a protected philosophical belief.

Support for a football club did not represent a belief as to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life but rather was akin to a lifestyle choice. There was a wide range of Rangers fans with varying reasons behind their support and there was nothing to suggest fans had to behave, or did behave, in a similar way. Loyalty to the Queen and support for the Union were not prerequisites of being a Rangers supporter (as Mr McClung submitted) and the only common factor was that fans wanted their team to do well. It therefore lacked the required characteristics of cogency, cohesion and importance.

Support for Rangers did not invoke the same respect in a democratic society as matters such as ethical veganism or the governance of a country, which have been the subject of academic research and commentary. As such, it did not amount to a protected philosophical belief under section 10(2) of the Equality Act 2010.


For more information or advice on this issue, please contact one of our specialist employment lawyers directly. Alternatively you can call 0115 9 100 200 or click here to send an email.

Posted on September 22, 2022

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