Accusing ECB officials of age discrimination, veteran umpire and former England batsman Peter Willey has challenged his dismissal from officiating cricket matches at an employment tribunal. Willey, one of England’s most grittiest batsmen from the 1980s, has officiated in 25 Test matches and is one of the most respected umpires on the circuit.
Mr Willey turned 65 in December, and was removed from the list of approved umpires for the first-class cricket season starting in April on grounds of his advanced age.
Willey’s former Northamptonshire team-mate and umpire George Sharp, who will turn 65 in March, has also been removed from the umpire’s roster, and has joined Willey in challenging the England and Wales Cricket Board in court. Willey and Sharp are two of the most senior umpires on the first-class circuit, having an experience of 45 years between them. Sharp has also officiated in 24 Test matches.
No evidence that umpires performed poorly
ECB's Umpires Manager Chris Kelly told the Central London Employment Tribunal hearing, “There's a need to react speedily at times.
“It’s common sense. I used to be able to run for long periods of time, now I can’t because I’m older.”
Barrister Declan O'Dempsey, repesenting Mr Willey and Mr Sharp, replied: “The respondent should be able to show evidence rather than just making an assumption or relying on his own personal experience.
“If you are right that there is a decline, do you not think there would be some indication of that in the run-up to age 65?”
Mr Kelly accepted the ECB had no evidence that older umpires performed poorly, or that Willey and Sharp had allowed their performances to deteriorate with advancing age.
Mr O’Dempsey said: “You in essence stopped yourself from considering their specific cases because you thought 'we’ve got a policy, that’s it’. You had decided that no reasons were good enough to overcome the retirement policy.”
In 2011, laws stopped employers from compulsorily retiring workers at 65. The tribunal continues.
The umpire duo were given a touching guard of honour on their supposed last day of officiating a first-class match in September 2014: