The UK has a wide-reaching legislative regime when it comes to discrimination and equality, including sports organisations. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is where much of the UK and European law in this area comes from, with the articles of the ECHR specifically relevant to sport being:

  • Article 4 – prohibition of slavery and forced labour (the treatment of players and restrictions on transfers);
  • Article 6 – right to a fair trial (a participant’s rights during disciplinary procedures and hearings);
  • Article 8 – right to respect for private and family life (duty upon sports organisations to keep personal information on competitors protected and confidential);
  • Article 9 – freedom of thought, conscience and religion (sports organisations to have an awareness of religious events like holy days when scheduling sporting events);
  • Article 10 – freedom of expression (coverage by the press of off-field activities); and
  • Article 11 – right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (athletes seeking to organise themselves collectively so as to best protect their rights in some form of union).

incorporates all aspects of the UK’s obligations pursuant to the ECHR and EU law, and consolidates all the different laws and regulations in this area in UK law. The Equality Act 2010 is structured on two key tenets: the protected characteristics and the type of discrimination.

Protected characteristics and types of discrimination

The protected characteristics under the Equality Act are:

  • age;
  • disability;
  • gender reassignment;
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • race;
  • religion or belief;
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • sex; and
  • sexual orientation

Discrimination occurs when a person treats, proposes to treat, or behaves in an unwanted way towards another person less favourably because they possess a particular characteristic as recognised in law, or perhaps because they have performed a protected act. A person may also be discriminated against because they associate with someone who has a particular attribute.

The board is required to ensure their organisation complies with the Act as the duty to avoid discrimination also extends to the provision of goods, services and facilities.

You should be conscious of avoiding several forms of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010:

  • direct discrimination – one person treats another less favourably because of a protected characteristic
  • indirect discrimination – treatment which may be neutral on its face but which discriminates in practice against members of a group who share a protected characteristic
  • harassment – unwanted conduct towards a person which is related to a protected characteristic
  • victimisation – a person is treated less favourably on the ground that they have done a protected act

You can be held liable under the Equality

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