Sunday, December 15, 2013

Football Reality

Before a capacity crowd yesterday Arsenal's Mesut Özil and Manchester City’s Yaya Touré earn £180,000 a week each. Citizens UK, calculates that it would take a full-time cleaner at either club 13 years to earn what Ozil or Touré earns in a week.

Richard Poku, 19, was paid below the living wage when he worked as catering staff for a subcontractor serving several football stadiums, including those belonging to Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Wembley. Most shifts were four hours long, paid at £6.19 an hour. Poku accuses footballers of failing to understand that their success is built on the backs of low-paid workers. "Footballers are earning that much because people are paying to watch the matches, and we are the ones catering for them."

England's Premier League football clubs exposes a stark truth about what used to be called "the people's game". Football clubs, enjoying a commercial boom that has delivered a 2013-16 TV deal of £5.5bn, pay top footballers £10m a year and chief executives £2m a year. But hundreds of their staff have to make do on the minimum wage: £6.31 an hour for over-21s; £5.03 for 18-20-year-olds; and £3.72 for under-18s. Only one club, Manchester City has committed to paying its staff a living wage.

In the Scottish Premier League the situation is little different. In November, at Celtic's AGM , a proposal to pay the loving wage of  £7.45 per hour rather than the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour was rejected. In the last two seasons, Celtic have spent around £10 million on fees and wages for three strikers .

The salary package of Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal's chief executive, which in 2012-13 was £1.925m. Daniel Levy, executive chairman of London's other major Premier League football club, was paid £2.2m in 2011-12, the year of the club's most recently published accounts. The package was paid by Spurs's parent company, Enic International, which is registered in the Bahamas and owned by currency trader Joe Lewis, then recharged to Spurs.

Ellis Cashmore, professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University, points out that many Premier League clubs are "spectacularly inept" as businesses: "In many cases, wage bills are 110% of turnover. You don't need Micawber logic to realise the result is misery. But banks seem prepared to prop them up on condition that they prune costs."

Cashmore imagines a bank manager and a club owner in conversation. The manager tells the owner the club is £10m in debt and must minimise its outgoings.

"We're opting for a cheaper supplier of food for the executive boxes and giving them supermarket wine," the owner says. "We're outsourcing the programme publisher, using poor quality paper and adding 20p to the price … and we're paying our cleaners rock-bottom wages."

The manager points out that the footballers' wage bill is more than £100m. "Yes, but they're different," the owner says. "If we don't pay them, their agents will just take them to a rival club."

"Fair enough," says the manager. "Pay your players as much as it takes. But screw the cleaners."

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