When Stephen Clee ran out for Treorchy Seconds last year he thought he had proved age doesn’t matter.
The 55-year-old came to the rescue of his local rugby club when one of its players was forced to sit out the second half through injury.
But now Mr Clee is at the centre of an age discrimination row after he was told by his new club he was “too old” to play.
On several occasions this season the first-aider for Tonyrefail RFC offered to make up the numbers when the team has been hit by injures – only to be told by the club it cannot get insurance from the Welsh Rugby Union to cover him.
Upset by the apparent discrimination, Mr Clee has written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission Wales for advice and has threatened to leave the club in search of another.
“This is not only important to me but to all over-50s who believe they are fit and able enough to still play rugby at a local level, in fact many of us over 50 are fitter than some under-30s who turn out regularly on Saturdays to play,” he said.
“I think I can deal with the physicality of it all. I wouldn’t even attempt to put myself in the position if I didn’t think I was. I think I’m old enough and experienced enough having played enough rugby in the past to be able to say to the second team captain I feel I’m capable of playing at least half a game.”
Mr Clee, of Manley Close, Tonyrefail, pointed to his second-half appearance for Treorchy Seconds last season as an example of his fitness and ability.
“I appreciate it could have gone wrong but it didn’t. I didn’t hide from anything; I got stuck in as best I could.
“I realise match fitness is a little bit different to being ordinary fit as my lungs were busted when I came off but it convinced me that I could certainly cope with the rigours of rugby for at least 40 minutes if not longer, as long as I got the opportunity.”
The computer software tester said it was now a matter of principle and even his family’s reluctance to see him back on the pitch would not deter him.
“My wife is not happy that I want to get back on the rugby field but she appreciates that there is a desire to give it one last go.”
Graham Shalton, chairman of Tonyrefail RFC, said: “We are affiliated with the WRU and as a result we have to follow their rules and as far as we are aware under their rules we cannot insure players over 50.
“If the WRU tells us otherwise then we will look at the issue again.”
A spokeswoman for the WRU was unable to confirm whether players over 50 were capable of getting insurance.
Article from WalesOnline