The penultimate day of the Premier League football season saw West Ham United FC, led by their Israeli manager Avram Grant, relegated to the Championship for the second time in 8 years.
West Ham and Grant had endured a rocky relationship ever since he took over in June 2010, just a few months after being caught by reporters leaving a ‘massage-parlour’ in Hampshire. There was no happy ending this time for Grant as he was unceremoniously dismissed immediately after the game that sealed West Ham’s fate last week.
Just 48 hours later, David Sullivan, West Ham’s co-owner, announced to Sky Sports that this time the Hammers will “definitely get a British manager, whether he is English, Scottish or Welsh makes no difference. [The manager] will be home-grown”. Can he really say this or does this flout English employment law?
On the face of it, making such a statement amounts to direct discrimination. Mr Sullivan is saying that he will treat applicants less favourably (by turning them down) if they are anything other than British. Nationality of course being a “Protected Characteristic” under the Equality Act 2010, this would amount to direct (and in fact admitted) discrimination unless West Ham can justify this criterion by saying that being British is an “occupational requirement” of the role and that applying that criterion is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
This argument seems about as doomed as West Ham’s Premiership campaign. The English Premier League is filled with foreign players and foreign managers and is a truly global league. In many respects, having expertise of overseas leagues’ up and coming assets could work as an advantage. Add to this the fact that the Premier League title has been won 5 times in the last 10 seasons by a foreign manager and that 4 of the 5 teams that were fighting against relegation this Sunday have a British manager and you can begin to see why this defence has more holes in it than West Ham’s. Perhaps the moral of the story is that you can think what you like about these things but should still think twice before announcing it to a national broadcaster.
PS. Mr Sullivan does attempt to justify the Club’s viewpoint by saying that West Ham “need someone who understands the culture and if you get someone with a knowledge of the East End that's so much better”. The last manager to take West Ham down and out of the Premier League was one Glenn Roeder. His place of birth? Woodford, Essex – approximately 5 miles from West Ham’s ground. Perhaps Mr Sullivan would like some locally sourced jellied eels with his humble pie?