Manchester United Job Applicants Asked to Conceal Tattoos Despite Star Players’ Body Art


Prospective hospitality staff at Manchester United are being told to hide tattoos – despite the team fielding heavily-inked superstars.

Adverts for match day roles state that ‘we take pride in our appearance’ and ask: ‘Do you have any visible tattoos or facial piercings?’

The criteria for the catering, retail and bar jobs at Old Trafford – with some of the roles involving serving ‘executive clients’ in hospitality areas – continues: ‘You will be asked to cover/remove as applicable.’

The Red Devils’ policy does not extend to the pitch, as the team includes Brazilian winger Antony – who has a distinctive tattoo of an eagle on his neck and an intricate sleeve on his right arm.

Disgruntled striker Jadon Sancho, linked with a move to Borussia Dortmund, also has markings on both arms, as does skipper Bruno Fernandes and forward Alejandro Garnacho.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Antony of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their sides first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal FC at Old Trafford on September 04, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Antony displays his body art as he celebrates scoring against Arsenal at Old Trafford (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Defender Victor Lindelöf has several elaborate designs, including a large back tattoo featuring Roman figures and ancient maps of the world.

His body art was showcased in a YouTube video entitled ‘Ink Sessions #01’ where he says: ‘For me, tattoos are a way of expressing myself and explaining a little bit about myself and my story…Tattoos are an art.’

Left-back Luke Shaw also has several tattoos, including a depiction of the Coco Pops monkey on his left arm.

Hayley Wilcock, a tattoo artist based in Manchester, said: ‘It does seem like double standards and a bit archaic to ask people hoping to work at Manchester United to cover up their tattoos.

Man Utd stars didn't get the memo about covering their tattoos at work
Victor Lindelöf has described tattoos as art and sports several striking designs (Picture: Victor Lindelöf/Instagram)

‘It doesn’t affect your work in any way, and I think people realise this in an age when tattoos have become more acceptable.

‘I have tattooed people from all walks of life, including United fans asking for the club’s badge. Tattoos are a form of art and reflect someone’s personality, rather than being a reflection on how they do their job.’

Jon Ludford-Thomas, consultant solicitor in the employment law team at Richard Nelson LLP, explained the legal position over employees displaying tattoos.

Mr Ludford-Thomas said: ‘In employment law terms, there is no free-standing protection for tattooed employees.

Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Alejandro Garnacho has the body art to match his flourishes of talent on the pitch (Picture: Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

‘That said, an employer requiring its staff to cover up tattoos at work may breach the Equality Act 2010 by indirectly discriminating against those staff whose tattoos are an expression of their religion or belief.

‘Having said this, the employer may have a defence to a claim of indirect discrimination if it can show that the requirement to cover up tattoos is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

‘Such a defence could be that the employer has the legitimate aim of presenting a neutral, business-like image to all its customers, and so the employer only requires those staff in customer-facing roles to cover up their tattoos when serving members of the public.’

While tattoos are not explicitly covered under the law, the area needs careful footing by employers.

Manchester United v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Bruno Fernandes shows his ‘8’ tattoo, a tribute to his father, who wore the number when he played football (Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Mr Ludford-Thomas added: ‘In essence, the more thought an employer gives to its reasons for a policy requiring its staff to cover up their tattoos combined with a sensitive application of such a policy, the more likely a court or tribunal will find such a policy not to discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief.

‘Such careful engagement by an employer could also ensure that a policy requiring tattoos to be covered up whilst at work is broadly accepted by its staff and customers alike.’

The rules at Old Trafford are made clear in the application process for the matchday and events section, which includes culinary roles.

The work includes supporting lead and sous chefs and providing ‘world-class catering for our executive clients within the hospitality areas’.

While no specific law relates to workplace tattoos, Virgin Atlantic made a step change in May last year when it relaxed the rules for employees.

Staff who previously had to cover up markings could ‘show off their ink to the world’ while still representing the brand on flights.

Virgin Atlantic is the first UK airline to allow cabin crew to display their tattoos while in uniform (Picture: @VirginAtlantic/Twitter)

Chief people officer Estelle Hollingsworth said, ‘Many people use tattoos to express their unique identities, and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from doing so if they choose.

‘That’s why, in line with our focus on inclusion and championing individuality, we’re relaxing our tattoo restrictions for all our people.’

However, the Red Devils have not followed suit with their adverts for the hospitality roles, which were live as of January 5.

A preamble for the job description reads: ‘Manchester United is one of the leading football clubs in world football; we have won 20 league titles, have been FIFA Club World Cup Champions, and have won three European Cups, which have resulted in us having one of the strongest brand names in the sport.

‘As a result of these successes on the pitch, we are now seeking the right individuals to continue these high standards and grow off the pitch.’

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