The First-tier Tribunal has held that, for tax purposes, lower division football referees are not employees of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the representative body which oversees the management of refereeing of professional football. Although this case deals with employment status under tax law, which is separate from employment law, there is significant overlap in the relevant principles.
PGMOL engages 60 referees on a self-employed basis to officiate for lower division football matches. A dispute arose because HMRC issued income tax and national insurance assessments on the basis that the referees were employees of PGMOL. Applying the key tests for employment status set out in the case of Ready-Mixed Concrete (South East) Limited v Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, the First-tier Tribunal agreed with PGMOL that the referees are self-employed. Key findings included:
This case highlights how difficult it can be to definitively assess employment status. Whilst acknowledging that some aspects of the arrangements in this case point towards an employment relationship, the First-tier Tribunal concluded that there is insufficient mutuality of obligation and control and confirmed that referees can therefore be taxed on a self-employed basis. For employment law purposes, however, PGMOL has agreed that referees will have ‘worker’ status in future football seasons.