Umpire strikes back in cricket’s age test match

Umpires Peter Willey (left) and George Sharp
Umpires Peter Willey (left) and George Sharp
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AN UMPIRE fighting a decision to retire him from the game because of his age has no intention of carrying on for “donkey’s years” but is still able to officiate at the highest level, he has told a tribunal.

Former England Test batsman Peter Willey, 65, one of two umpires fighting an England and Wales Cricket Board decision to drop them from their top list, told the employment hearing he would want to quit the £51,270 job if he was not good enough.

But Mr Willey, a former chairman of umpires who officiated in 25 Test matches during a cricketing career spanning 49 years, said that time has not yet come.

He told the hearing in London: “I personally wouldn’t want to see umpires carry on until their standards drop just for the sake of it.

“I don’t want to carry on and leave the game with people thinking I wasn’t a very good umpire.

“When I finished my (playing) career at Leicestershire after 25 years I was asked to take the money and leave the club. For the last year and a half I was not a very good cricketer and I don’t want that to happen as an umpire.”

He added: “If I was performing at the highest level and helping other umpires as I was, I thought I would be a benefit to the game of cricket.”

Mr Willey and former colleague George Sharp, 64, who have 45 years of umpiring experience between them, are claiming unfair dismissal and age discrimination against the ECB.

It last year removed them from its first class umpire list for the 2015 season because they would both be aged 65 when the season starts.

Both men told the tribunal today that they did not want to carry on indefinitely, but only wanted a two-year extension to their contracts, which could be reviewed after a year.

Mr Willey, who played 26 Tests for England between 1976 and 1986, added: “When you walk onto the field as a 25-year-old or a 65-year-old you can make a mistake. No one is perfect, unless you are a genius you are going to make mistakes.

“If you are an honest person and your sole interest is the game of cricket you will have a fair idea of when your standards are dropping. The ECB should be strong enough to say ... we don’t think you have kept your standards up.”

Mr Sharp, who is currently unemployed but taking a cricket scorer’s course, told the tribunal he would not want to still be umpiring when he was 70.

But he added: “At the moment my standards have not dropped, and at the end of the 2015 season I would know if my standards had dropped and I would go back to the board and discuss it.

“If they said ‘George, your standards have dropped, you have got to go’ I would say ‘thank you very much’.”

He added: “During my playing career, at the age of 35 I was offered a two-year contract by Northamptonshire.

“I turned it down because I knew that my standards were dropping and I went to work in the big wide world.”