Manchester lawyers win football discrimination case

TWO Manchester lawyers represented premier league star Jonas Gutierrez in his successful disability discrimination claim against Newcastle United.

An employment tribunal found that midfielder and ex-Argentina international Gutierrez was dropped by the North East club because of his 2013 cancer diagnosis.

Gutierrez, who now plays for Deportivo La Coruna in Spain, returned to play for Newcastle and scored on the last day of the 2014/15 season, but was released that summer when his contract expired.

The tribunal found that the Newcastle United board influenced team selection so that Gutierrez did not reach a certain number of appearances so as to trigger an automatic one-year contract extension.

Martin Budworth, acting as barrister for Gutierrez said: “The tribunal has made it clear that a Premier League football club owes the same duties to a disabled person as any other employer.”

He continued: “It is very gratifying to have been able to help Mr Gutierrez in fighting for these findings especially when the club said his claims were ludicrous.”

Budworth, a barrister at Kings Chambers in Manchester, has represented dozens of football clubs and players including Mario Balotelli and Charlie Adam.

The ex-Newcastle United player was advised by another Manchester lawyer, Carol Couse who acted as instructing solicitor.

Couse, a sports law expert with leading UK firm Mills & Reeve, 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.”

The tribunal found that Gutierrez was discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against workers because of a mental or physical disability including cancer.

The ruling stated that Gutierrez “had maintained his place in the starting line-up without difficulty for five years,” and “Just over two weeks after the claimant returned to the club in November 2013 following his diagnosis and treatment, and at a point when he was match fit and returning to action he was told that he no longer featured in the club’s future plans. We conclude that the decision to drop the claimant was because of the claimant’s cancer.”

Other claims of unfavourable treatment were rejected by the tribunal.

Gutierrez was thought to be suing the premier league club for in the region of £2m, but compensation will be decided at a further remedy hearing to be held in due course.

Newcastle are considering further options with their legal team.

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