Their union, Prospect, is disappointed by the judgment and will be considering it in more depth with the members and Counsel.
Willey and Sharp are highly respected umpires, who wanted to continue umpiring beyond the ECB’s expected retirement age of 65.
When their request to stay on was refused they brought claims of unfair dismissal and age discrimination. The ECB accepted both umpires were performing well, but argued the retirement age was justified.
The tribunal ruled that the decision to retire Willey and Sharp was not unlawful discrimination or unfair dismissal. It did accept that they had been treated less favourably because of their age, but said it was justified because the ECB wanted to ensure opportunities for succession planning and appointing new umpires.
The ECB had also argued that the decision was justified because it wanted to maintain dignity by not having to ultimately dismiss umpires because of a decline in performance at some point in the future. However, the tribunal did not accept that this would have been justified.
Alan Leighton, Prospect national secretary, and John Holder, one of their former umpiring colleagues, also gave evidence to the tribunal. The members were supported by Prospect’s legal team and were represented at the hearing by barrister, Declan O’Dempsey.
George Sharp said: “I would like to thank Prospect for their professional help and support. They have been exceptional in their approach, dedication and understanding of my cause.”
Peter Willey added: “The union was great and it really shows how people need unions. We could not have taken the case without them.