The Equality and Human Rights Commission investigate FA of Wales Age ban.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have accepted my case“ (against the Football Association of Wales) as a strategic priority referral because there may be unjustifiable age discrimination which is a strategic priority for the Commission.”

A casework and litigation officer has been allocated to look into the case. This meant first off the case officer having interviewed me.

The story so far.

In 2014 the Football Association of Wales (FAW) decision to introduce an age limit rule (of 65) for members seeking election to its association boards was contested as in conflict with the direct discrimination as per the Equality Act 2010,

the intention of the Football Association of Wales (FAW) to introduce an age limit rule (of 65) for members seeking election to its association boards.

The latest fact to emerge is that the rule is practised by England, Scotland and Northern Ireland FAs have the same rules. A request for details of the English FA has had no response. (Par for this course.)

Age” was added in 2012 to the Act’s seven “protected characteristics” Race, sex, disablement etc to which it is illegal to practice discrimination thus: “A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treat B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.”

Over the four years the opinions of equality bodies, lawyers and an MP, evaluating the law, declared over and again the FAW rule to be discriminatory.

The FAW’s case was that its Councillors do not have the benefit of the protection from discrimination provided by the Act Part 5 because FAW “is an incorporated entity and the Councillors are unremunerated directors. If it any time paid councillors the exemption would end.”

The rebuttals of the FAW’s case is that it applies Part 5 of the Act on Employment, ignoring Part 7 “Associations” which the FAW clearly is and an association’s duty is not to discriminate in any way against “a member.”) It is/was also in its own rules!

This was answered only once by “No it isn’t! according to our lawyers” and then by a wall of silence by the FAW.

The rule came from the FAW’s Review of Wales Football Governance 2013 its only “evidence” for it being that some members had “fallen asleep at meetings.” Nothing more and nothing of age’s experience and virtues. One lawyer’s answer to people sleeping at meetings was simple: “Wake them up!.”

The Equality Act has a get out clause on “age” that allows for discrimination if: “A does not discriminate against B if A can show A’s different treatment of B is proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.” There seems no case law showing this to have been tested.

A “source close to the FAW” told Martin Shipton of the Western Mail; “The whole point of the change is to bring on younger people . Around 60 per cent of board members are in their 60s or older and that’s not representative of the population.” .

This begs the question “Do the FAW intend make councils “more representative of the population by rule changes designed to boost women’s’, ethnics and the disabled presence on boards.”

The FAW’s final answer to the charge of age discrimination “See you in court then!” has to be met sometime.

In that case a person “qualified” would have to stand for election to a FAW council seat in order to demonstrate that the FAW has discriminated against him/her on the grounds of age. It can’t be proved theoretically.

The next election is July 2019 but the chance that someone is willing to go to the trouble and expense of mounting this challenge for an FAW council seat. would surely deter the hardiest of souls.

Conclusions are that.

Because Age was added late to the list of Equality law Positive Characteristics it has not had the publicity of the others.

If it were not about a person’s age but being black, a woman, disabled a rule banning these from office it would never be considered.

The traditional way of depicting older people as somehow “doddery and daft(is) prevails. Where age discrimination is considered its treated in cavalier fashion.

Where age discrimination surfaces it needs to be challenged. The “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” (for an exemption) is needed. To make way for younger people is not enough.

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