German referee wins compensation for age discrimination

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A leading soccer referee in Germany was awarded 48,500 euros ($52,800) in compensation on Wednesday after a court found he was discriminated against when he was no longer considered for games because of his age.

The court in Frankfurt found the 49-year-old Manuel Gräfe, who officiated 289 Bundesliga games from 2004 through 2021, had been disadvantaged by the German soccer federation’s practice of not considering referees over the age of 47.

The court said the federation, known as the DFB, was not justified in imposing a blanket restriction on older referees at the elite level without scientific evidence or using more individual measures like performance tests.

However, the court rejected a claim for damages including lost earnings, ruling that Gräfe had not provided evidence to show that he would still have been selected for games if the the age limit had not been in place.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA decided in 2014 to abolish its age limit for referees in international games. However, FIFA rules say referees over 45 can still be subject to “additional technical assessments as well as specific medical examinations and fitness testing on a case-by-case basis.”

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