The taxman have been shown a red card by football referees after they won a legal battle over a £584,000 penalty charge in a landmark case about the nature of employment. HM Revenue and Customs’ position that most referees should be considered employees was challenged by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body which represents football referees in England in a tribunal. PGMOL successfully argued that a group of employees, some of who had officiated in high profile games, should have been treated as self-employed and are entitled to pay a lower rate of national insurance.
The tribunal found that the relationship between the referees and PGMOL lacked two key features of employment: mutuality of obligation, and control. PGMOL successfully argued that unlike the referees in the Premier League, those who officiate in lower league matches are not employees. Many of the referees have day jobs and can turn down offers to oversee matches as and when they choose to do so. The tribunal concluded that individual appointments to matches were engagements to perform the task for officiating at the match in question for a fee but not a contract of service.
The decision has far reaching implications for workers in other fields, including media, medicine and professional services where rules imposed upon them by a regulator may previously have been interpreted as an indication they are employed.