Top-flight clubs should lead fight against poverty wages - Frank Field MP

Frank Field MP Photo Policy Exchange

We're big supporters of the Living Wage here at the FSF and we encourage clubs to adopt the standard for all their staff. Here Frank Field MP explains more about the campaign... 

England’s biggest football clubs are in pole position to lead the fight back against poverty wages. They are falling over themselves to offer hundreds of thousands of pounds per week to their top stars. Record-breaking television deals and sponsorship agreements are fuelling mega profits year on year.

Yet large numbers of their workers who staff the club shop, clean the terraces, sell the half-time food and drink or keep supporters safe are paid very low wages.

As part of a wider campaign to encourage high-flying industries to up their game on this score, I wrote last year to each of our top flight clubs asking whether their contract cleaners, caterers and security guards were paid a living wage – a voluntary rate that is higher than the minimum wage and is deemed high enough to meet life’s essentials. Only six clubs initially had the nerve to reply, and none of them made sure these employees, who perform vital jobs, were paid enough to live on.

Thankfully, following a barnstorming campaign both from the grassroots and in Parliament, the Premier League announced in March a voluntary Living Wage agreement that will come into effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. Each club from this point on will pay all permanent staff at least a Living Wage. This is a welcome first step, but given that each club outsources so many of its low paid jobs to external contractors I am concerned that its impact might be limited.

It was agreed at a recent meeting of Premier League Supporters’ Trusts in the House of Commons, therefore, that a next step must be to persuade all Premier League clubs to extend the Living Wage agreement by the beginning of next season to all staff – whether they are employed on a part-time or temporary basis, through agencies or external contractors – working at each club. Our first move has met with some success.

Champions Chelsea maybe struggling this season – but they remain on top when it comes to the Living Wage, at least. They are the only top flight club to have pursued full Living Wage status, not just paying it to their direct staff but contractors too. In answer to my recent parliamentary question, Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport, told me she welcomed Chelsea’s policy and that she expects the rest of the Premier League to follow.

She said further that, ‘I will press home that message to the Premier League's Executive Chairman as part of the regular dialogue we have on a range of football matters’. A hugely encouraging message and I’ve written to ask how the Government might follow up in the weeks ahead.

With the Minister’s help, we might just be able to steer each club towards setting the best possible example in their community by paying a decent day’s wage for a decent day’s work. Might I therefore ask whether supporters from each club might write to the Minister asking her to get in touch with their club chairman?

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don't necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn't be attributed to the FSF.

Thanks to Policy Exchange for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under CC licence.