Cardiff City, Age Discrimination and Common Sense
Last week, Cardiff City placed their head of recruitment, Iain Moody, the man presumably responsible for the signing of Gary Medel, Andreas Cornelius and Steven Caulker, on gardening leave and replaced him with Alisher Apsalyamov.
The BBC hailed this news with the headline, ‘Cardiff replace head of recruitment with 23-year-old Kazakh.’
So far, so accurate although as a sentence riven with hidden opinion, it’s as fine an example as you will see.
Putting out Apsalyamov’s nationality is the first invitation to ridicule – that’s Borat’s gaff after all. Then there is the man’s age – by purely stating the facts, the website’s readership is immediately provoked into displays of astonishment.
So is the BBC guilty of discrimination?
The United Kingdom Equality Act of 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of their age. This includes direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
The onus is mainly on employers of course but as with race, gender and sexual orientation, a third party, especially a media outlet, could presumably be brought to book for fostering prejudice – although proving a case would be difficult, in particular where the bare facts are being stated as they have been in this case.
Much of the impact of the legislation is being felt when elder people are being discriminated against – take the Miriam O’Reilly case, also involving the BBC of course, and the setting up of the Grey Pride movement.
In football, older players and managers are often given a raw deal but youth is usually King.
Not so much in off the field activities however and other cases spring to mind when the age of an individual hit the headlines.
Neil Warnock’s exasperation that Michael Oliver took charge of his then club Crystal Palace’s cup tie with Watford back in 2009 was underlined when he made explicit reference to the official’s twenty three years. There then followed a series of high profile incidents involving the stripling referee including a match between Blackpool and West Bromwich Albion in 2010 which might well go down as the worst officiated match in Premier League history – the sending off of Pablo Ibañez just one of a series of wrong-headed decisions.
Oliver has calmed down a bit since but one is also reminded of Stuart Attwell who will always be remembered for the award of Reading’s so-called ‘ghost goal’ against Watford in 2008. Things have gone less swimmingly for Attwell since and he was demoted from the Premier League list in 2012. He was 25 at the time.
Another case is that of Spencer Trethewy, just 19 when he bailed out Aldershot and took over as Chairman in 1990. Press coverage was generally as incredulous as that which has met the appointment of Apsalyamov although this was before twitter and hence, no parody account was set up.
Trethewy, now seemingly a genuinely rich man and who subsequently changed his surname to Day before getting involved with Chertsey Town, was swiftly exposed as a fraud, having no wherewithal to pay back the £200,000 he had borrowed to put together the rescue package.
So what lessons can be learned?
Well a bit of common sense for a start. The law is one thing but in choosing to opt for more experienced campaigners, employers are no more guilty of ageism than Jack Wilshere is a racist.
Apsalyamov was apparently hired as a work experience candidate earlier this year, is a friend of Vincent Tan’s son and was reputedly patrolling the Cardiff City Stadium with a can of paint (whether blue or red, reports do not say although one presumes the latter) while promotion was being earned in the Spring.
23 he may be but pointing out directly or inferring the utter ridiculousness of the appointment is absolute fair game – just as Warnock was right to question the detailing of Oliver to referee that cup tie and we were all entitled to guffaw when Trethewy rolled up at the Recreation Ground.
Yes, Eddie Howe has blazed a trail since taking charge of Bournemouth for the first time at the age of 31; yes, Brian Clough started out in management at Hartlepool even younger than that; yes, Will Carling captained England at rugby at the age of 22.
But taking into account an applicant’s age and experience is crucial and coming as it does against the diabolical series of decisions taken by Vincent Tan since talking charge in South Wales, it must surely be roundly, unequivocally condemned. Discrimination has got nothing to do with it.