Football Club Assistant Manager Unfairly Dismissed Tribunal Rules

Disciplinary proceedings are a source of anxiety for any employee and, if they are allowed to drag on for too long, that in itself can be unreasonable. An Employment Tribunal (ET) made that point in awarding substantial compensation to the former assistant manager of a football club who was unfairly sacked.

The man had been accused of verbally abusing members of the club’s grounds staff in foul-mouthed terms. He was said to have lost his temper over the positioning of practice nets and cones before a pre-season match and, following a disciplinary process, was dismissed with immediate effect for gross misconduct.

He accepted that he had used the F-word when speaking to one of the groundsmen but said that he had only done so after he was sworn at himself. He argued that the use of such language was commonplace at the club and amongst footballers generally. The groundsman concerned had accepted that he also swore and had referred to the incident as ‘just a hissy fit’ and ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’.

The ET noted that the burden of proof was on the club and that it had failed to establish on the balance of probabilities that the man was guilty of the conduct alleged. In finding that his dismissal was unfair, it focused in particular on the fact that he had not been informed of the allegation until six months after the incident. His dismissal fell outside the range of reasonable responses and he had also been wrongfully dismissed without notice, in breach of his contract.

The exact amount of the man’s award has yet to be calculated, but it will include compensation for six months’ loss of pay and benefits, a basic award of £865 for unfair dismissal and almost £3,000 in lieu of notice.