First ever Gladiators champion Weininger Irwin wins £15,000 payout from sports club that


The first ever champion of the iconic 1990s show Gladiators and his wife have won more than £15,000 after successfully suing a London sports club.

Weininger Irwin, who won the first series of Gladiators in 1992, was sacked without warning over email when the sports club the couple managed ran out of money during the pandemic.

Mr Irwin, now 60, and his wife Janice – an ex-World and European Karate Champion – had been working up to ’92 hours per week’ as sole managers of Ilford Sports Club in east London.

However, the club’s board furloughed them at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and its finances took a turn for the worse.

Weininger Irwin (pictured in 1992) was sacked without warning over email when the sports club he managed with his wife ran out of money during the pandemic

Weininger Irwin (pictured in 1992) was sacked without warning over email when the sports club he managed with his wife ran out of money during the pandemic

Having reached the grand final of ITV game show Gladiators in 1992, Mr Irwin was crowned series champion after competing in a series of physical events

Having reached the grand final of ITV game show Gladiators in 1992, Mr Irwin was crowned series champion after competing in a series of physical events 

During a board meeting in August 2020 it was revealed the club had just 30p in it and the reserve account had 43p, a tribunal heard.

Without speaking to Mr and Mrs Irwin, the board emailed them to say they were redundant.

Mr Irwin and his 58 year old wife successfully sued Ilford Sports Club for unfair dismissal.

Now the couple have been awarded a total of £15,346 after an employment tribunal heard they were supposed to be paid a combined £30,000 a year for running the club, and worked an average of 75 hours between them each week.

Ilford Sports Club was ordered to pay Mr Irwin £6,480.19 and Mrs Irwin £8,865.91.

Having reached the grand final of ITV game show Gladiators in 1992, Mr Irwin was crowned series champion after competing in a series of physical events.

He also appeared on the BBC Two series Back in Time for Brixton in November 2016, in which a family experience 50 years of black British history.

Last year, Mr Irwin, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020, raised £4,000 for Red Nose Day, with a 24-hour Row-A-Thon.

An East London employment tribunal heard the Irwins – who have four children – took over as sole managers of Ilford Sports Club in 2015 and were responsible for its running, including the bar and functions.

They were responsible for opening and locking up the club, and ensuring it was clean and ready for use each day, the tribunal heard.

The club was used for a variety of sports – including two football clubs – as well as community activities, and was available for private hire for events such as parties and wakes, the tribunal was told.

Mr and Mrs Irwin agreed with the club’s board that they would together be paid £30,000 to manage it, and could continue to run their own businesses providing classes at the premises, the panel heard.

In March 2020, the Irwins were furloughed during the Covid pandemic, and the club’s finances plummeted as it was ‘was no longer able to take bookings for use of the premises or operate a bar’.

By August 2020, the club had just 30p in its account and 43p in its reserve account.

Mr Irwin, now 60, and his wife Janice (pictured together) - an ex-World and European Karate Champion - had been working '92 hours per week' as sole managers of Ilford Sports Club in east London

Mr Irwin, now 60, and his wife Janice (pictured together) – an ex-World and European Karate Champion – had been working ’92 hours per week’ as sole managers of Ilford Sports Club in east London

Without any discussion with Mr and Mrs Irwin, the board decided they should be made redundant because of the club’s ‘current circumstances’, the tribunal heard.

They were informed by email and subsequently appealed the decision before starting legal action.

The tribunal heard the club ‘did not, and has not to date employed anyone to replace’ the Irwins, and by summer 2021 had debts of over £50,000.

READ MORE: Where are the Gladiators now?

Iconic: Gladiators was watched by over 14 million viewers and was hosted by Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu as well as featuring gruff referee John Anderson - so where are they all now?

Iconic: Gladiators was watched by over 14 million viewers and was hosted by Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu as well as featuring gruff referee John Anderson – so where are they all now?

The tribunal concluded Mr and Mrs Irwin had been unfairly dismissed because there had been ‘no warning, no consultation and no discussion or meaningful consideration of alternatives’ before they were sacked.

Their claims of unlawful deduction from wages, unpaid accrued holiday pay and failure to provide written initial employment particulars also succeeded.

Employment Judge Andrew Sugarman said: ‘We are in no doubt that the dismissals were unfair

‘Although the Club had no money, it was considering opening again on a limited basis.

‘As such, some albeit perhaps limited income could have been foreseen in the foreseeable future together with a need for some Club Management work.’

Speaking after winning their case, Mr Irwin said: ‘It’s despicable the way they went about getting rid of us. It’s so wrong.

‘We’ll keep standing.’

Mrs Irwin said: ‘We were underpaid and there was no contract in place. We were the only two people running the place.

‘People ask why we stayed for so long, I think it was a bit of Stockholm syndrome.

‘There have since been funerals in our community held at the club that we haven’t been able to go to because we don’t want to be there.

‘We’ve won but it’s bittersweet.’



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