Law firm helps cancer-hit soccer star win discrimination case
Mills & Reeve’s sports law team helped international soccer star Jonas Gutierrez win a headline-making disability discrimination claim against his former club Newcastle United, it has emerged.
The case centred on how the former Argentina international was treated by the club following a 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 that the respondent was deliberately managing the claimant’s selection to prevent him triggering the option (of a contract 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.”
The lead Mills & Reeve lawyer was Andrew Macdonald who was at the Cambridge office but has just moved to be head of legal at another premiership club, Norwich City.
The Mills & Reeve team also included Spanish-speaking sports law consultant Carol Couse, employment partner Richard Santy and sports law executive Tiran Gunawardena.
Couse, who attended every day of the tribunal alongside Gutierrez, said: “Having battled cancer on two occasions and subsequently suffered unfair treatment by the club as a result of this, Jonas was pleased that the employment tribunal 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 was determined by the tribunal that the Newcastle 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 was discredited.
“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.”