Yesterday morning, a delegation of Citizens UK members who have been working on the Living Wage campaign in the football sector met with Director of Policy Bill Bush and Director of Communications Tim Vine.
The campaign has been gathering momentum over the last two months since the accreditation of Chelsea FC as an accredited Living Wage Employer last December. Joel Sharples, part of today's Citizens UK delegation, organised an e-petition which gathered 65,000 signatures calling on the Premier League to adopt the Living Wage.
Despite this momentum, the team left disappointed today because the Premier League continue refuse to take a position of leadership on the issue. Bill Bush explained that the Premier League considers itself a good employer and even thinks, to the best of his knowledge, that they pay the Living Wage to all staff. However, he was unwilling to commit to becoming accredited.
The Premier League, which acts as the secretariat for the 20 Clubs, said it was unable to encourage the clubs to adopt the Living Wage.
John Crowley, a worker at Chelsea FC and Arsenal tried to explain today the importance of the Living Wage for low paid staff at the major clubs and why the Premier League had a moral obligation to encourage Clubs to go above the basic minimum. He said:
"The Living Wage is about lifting families out of working poverty. I am saving up to afford a law degree so I can achieve my dreams of being a lawyer and the minimum wage simply isn't good enough especially when we know the Clubs can afford it."
Martin Wroe, vicar and writer from Islington, who chaired the meeting with the Premier League estimated that there are approximately 40,000 workers within the Premier League currently working below the Living Wage. He said:
"With the recent announcement of a TV deal of £5.1 billion it seems unjust that the Premier League can't encourage the Clubs to adopt the Living Wage or at least themselves become an accredited Living Wage Employer. This campaign is not about bashing clubs about their high paid stars, it's about lifting the floor to ensure those at the bottom are not forced into poverty because the clubs continue to pay wages too low to allow for a decent standard of living."
Rhys Moore, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, who joined the Citizens UK delegation today said:
"There is both a moral and business case for the Living Wage and we hope that now the Premier League knows more about the detail of the campaign they will step up and get accredited. We see the momentum of this campaign continuing to build and we hope Richard Scudamore will see the opportunity in being on the offensive in the fight against low-pay by adopting a leading role with the a Living Wage now."
With thousands of supporters connected across the country, the Living Wage is an issue that is not going away. Citizens UK members are going to step up campaigning with key clubs such as Arsenal FC who are refusing to engage. Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation will also be continuing to support and encourage more open clubs such as West Ham and Manchester City who are exploring the Living Wage and beginning to work out how this would roll out into the security, cleaning and catering subcontracts where the majority of low paid workers are employed.
Sophie Stephens, Lead Organiser on the Citizens UK Living Wage football campaign said:
"We hope by the end of the season we will have more than just one Living Wage champion in the Premier League and we envisage a future where the Living Wage is the norm in football. But this takes courage, demonstrated by Chelsea, and we are calling now on all the clubs to show their true colours by stepping up to the plate and working to lift low-paid staff out of working poverty."