Recent posts have shown my current distaste for the state of English football. This is nothing new. In fact, some time ago I posted a piece entitled, ‘There is something rotten in the state of English football’ which set out quite clearly the issues I have with English football from the grassroots up. However, given the activity within the Premiership in particular this week, I have found myself becoming even more disturbed and disillusioned by the greed, consumerism and commodification of football and the near eradication of what used to be called ‘fans’ from the modern game.
With this in mind, I have today come across some further information that causes even more disillusionment. The Fair Pay Network and the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) have recently launched a campaign that calls upon all Premiership clubs to become ‘ethical’ employers and pay ‘fair’ wages to all its staff that are working off the pitch.
Despite the Premiership being the most lucrative football league in the world, every club appears to be condemning many of its workers off the pitch and away from the media gaze to a life of what the campaign describes as ‘working poverty’. Whilst more than £600 million has been eagerly spent on bringing new players to the league, that same eagerness clearly does not apply to the cleaners, vendors, caterers and so on.
Research undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that a single person in Britain needs to earn at least £13,400 a year before tax to achieve a minimum standard of living. Very few service jobs in Premiership clubs meet this standard, so a situation ensues where an extremely wealthy – and greedy – sport has people servicing it who are, despite working, also being forced to live in poverty.
In London, all of the five London clubs are regularly paying at least £2 per hour less than the established London Living Wage. What is staggering is that even Boris Johnson recently announced that in London, people need to earn an hourly rate of nearly 18% above the minimum wage. If this is so, then Premiership clubs would need to be paying their staff at least £7.45 an hour. Unfortunately, in recent advertisements for a variety of vacancies, few have been offered at above the legal minimum of £5.25.
To support this, the Fair Pay Network and the IPPR have produced the following evidence:
A club not actually paying any set wage for 2 part-time shifts per week (in all seasons) selling lottery tickets door to door in streets surrounding the stadium. The pay was instead one match ticket per month and some possible commission.
A club paying a £25 fee for 5 hours work as a steward on match days (technically illegal under national minimum wage legislation).
An English supplier chain for 3 Premiership clubs paying an aggregated rate of £3 per hour for the production of official club merchandise.
A club paying £15 for 4-5 hours work as a programme seller with a possibility of commission after 50 are sold.
A club offering no wage for match day shifts selling club lottery tickets. Instead, a match ticket is offered as reward.
All clubs paying the lowest legal wage for cleaners, kitchen porters, kiosk cashiers, bar staff, conference and banqueting staff.
When staggeringly ridiculous prices are being bandied around about players costing £135 million whose weekly wages amount to more than £125,000, it seems completely untenable that these same employers are treating their staff with such disdain and disrespect.
But should we be surprised? Of course not, no.
English football – even outside of the Premiership – is nowadays driven by the dreams and aspirations of the WAGs, the Bentleys, the driving bans, the Hello magazine wedding shoots, the Lucozade adverts, and the Nike sponsorship deals. All are de rigeur and that is an extremely myopic and dangerous thing.
The campaign is calling on all clubs to move towards a “Hatrick Gold Standard” of living wages and associated conditions for the thousands of cleaners, shop assistants and hotel and catering workers who work so hard to make the clubs financially successful. Whether it can make the clubs remember the workers any more than it does the fans is though another matter completely.
Forget the fans then forget the workers. Whatever next, maybe even forget the football…?
In a week of Arab millionaires, over-priced Brazillian players forgetting which team they’d signed for, and a whole raft of other nonsense, maybe we already have.
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.