Richard Linskell, employment law partner at Dawson's solicitors, has warned football clubs that they could be liable if they only give short contracts to players aged over 30. His comments come after Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he would not change the club's stance to provide Robert Pires, 32, with anything longer than a one-year deal.
"I think challenges will be able to be made; whether players will bring it is another matter altogether," said Linskell. "There are a lot ofplayers like Teddy Sheringham who carry on playing well beyond the age of 30, and Bolton recently signed an Israeli (Idan Tal) who is 31-years-old. Playing over 30 doesn't mean you're past it, a policy based on age can be actionable. It's quite rare that the employer will have such a blatant attitude."
While I don't like the idea that age discrimination legislation can apply to professional sports, neither do I agree with Arsenal's policy of not offering players over 30 anything longer than a one-year contract. Many players have had years of success past the age of 30. In fact numerous sporting stars only began to start tasting success when they hit 30 - Dave Moorcroft breaking the world 5000m record, for example. Ian Wright, who was, until recently, Arsenal's all-time leading scorer, only joined the club a couple of months before his 28th birthday and was still scoring on a regular basis at 33 (when Arsene Wenger first arrived to the club). I doubt Wenger would have even considered signing a player who was only two years away from 30.