Posted on 8.9.15 by Danielle Ayres
One of the most famous referees in snooker has appeared in court this week in a case against her former employers World Snooker. Michaela Tabb, who became the first woman to officiate in a ranking tournament in 2002, claimed sex discrimination, unfair dismissal and breach of contract.
Ms Tabb who is 47, is famous for her stern, no-nonsense approach, as well as being one of the best referees in the business. She left her job in March this year after her relationship with the world organisation and the chairman, Barry Hearn, become strained. She flew home during the Australian Open tournament and it is understood that there was a dispute over an annual bonus that wasn’t paid, but which was “discretionary” according to World Snooker.
World Snooker refuted the allegations made and refused to comment until the tribunal in Bristol had come to an end, as had Tabb. There were very few reports on the precise detail of the claims which Ms Tabb made, however, issues relating to discretionary bonuses arise frequently in practice.
The court case was expected to last eight days but appears to have come to an early conclusion with both parties reaching a confidential agreement.
Discretionary bonuses are non-contractual which will mean that she had no actual right to the bonus. They are set out in this way to avoid placing an employer under any obligation to have to make any bonus payments, therefore any extra payments are only made at the employer’s discretion and on their terms.
In relation to the discrimination claim, Ms Tabb’s appointment was made as World Snooker had wanted to change the image of their referees by bringing in some younger referees and a female. At the time, Ms Tabb was fast-tracked through the system, and subsequently made history by being the only woman to have refereed the World Championship Final at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which she described as one of the greatest moments in her life.
Despite this, her experience as one of the top female snooker referees has not all been plain sailing. During her fast-track, she stated that she faced hostility from other established referees at the time and in 2013 had to warn Ronnie O’Sullivan for making an obscene gesture with his snooker cue.
After the two battling parties reached a “confidential accommodation”, as declared by World Snooker, it seems like we will never get to know the finer details of the case. Ms Tabb’s representatives refused to provide further comment.
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