Four football linesmen (or to give them their official title, "assistant referees") have won their challenge against a default retirement age of 48 imposed by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body which provides referees for professional football. Officials can apply to be retained beyond age 48 but if they are refused (and any appeal is unsuccessful) then they can no longer continue as elite officials. An employment tribunal has found that the practice of retiring officials at age 48 was discriminatory on the grounds of age.
PGMOL was not able to justify the retirement age. The tribunal accepted that PGMOL had a legitimate aim of trying to ensure that younger referees could progress to the elite panel. However, PGMOL was unable to establish that they had deployed a proportionate means of achieving this aim. The tribunal was not satisfied that there had to be a mandatory retirement age and even if it was appropriate, whether age 48 was the appropriate age. No specific scientific evidence was led to show that performance levels of officials deteriorated at that age and PGMOL could not show why age 48 should be chosen, rather than any other age. The tribunal noted that the Netherlands has had no default retirement age for football match officials since 2000. On the other hand, FIFA has a mandatory retirement age of 45. A further tribunal hearing will determine whether the officials are reinstated or compensated by PGMOL.