The University of Birmingham's College of Social Sciences joined Citizens UK Birmingham as a principal partner last year. Yvonne Sawbridge is a Senior Fellow at the Health Services Management Centre, and also an Aston Villa fan. She has become centrally involved in the campaign to persuade Aston Villa to become the first Living Wage football club in the Midlands. This is an article she wrote for the School of Social Policy blog.
The Living Wage is often confused with the national minimum wage, which is the statutory wage employers need to pay. However the Living Wage is a higher, independently calculated voluntary rate of pay based on the cost of living. In other words, the minimum wage is not enough for people to live on. Many of those "hard-working families", so beloved by politicians, are not even provided by law with sufficient income to live in 21st century Britain!
If that wasn't outrageous enough, there wasn't one Premier League football team paying the Living Wage to their employers at the start of this campaign (Chelsea have now committed to do so, and Norwich City look set to follow). As an Aston Villa season ticket holder, I wanted to direct my voice away from the players on the pitch (I have had more than enough opportunities to shout helpful advice to them over the years!) and towards the business of the club, as a responsible employer. Hence I joined the Living Wage campaign.
Whilst two-thirds of staff employed by Aston Villa receive an income above the minimum wage, one third receives the basic minimum. That is hundreds of people - stewards, turnstile operators and catering staff - supporting the game that pays such riches to owners and players, who earn less than the price of a match ticket!
After writing to the CEO of Aston Villa and being refused a meeting, we started with a Twitter campaign, during the Manchester United game on Friday 14 August. This campaign will continue until we succeed in changing this social injustice.
A selection of tweets are below. Please follow @CitizensUKBham and @LivingWageUK to support our future actions.
Villa are great, but can only play well with lots of people off the pitch helping them. Mary G age 11 #avfc #LivingWage http://ow.ly/QRBSb
.@AVFCOfficial becoming 1st #LivingWage accredited Midlands club would add to our reputation. Emma C .
#AVFC paying @LivingWageUK would help people living & working in the area the club was built in. Suky M http://ow.ly/QRBSb @ianherbs
.@AVFCOfficial paying #LivingWage would make me feel better being part of the club. Harriet S http://ow.ly/QRBSb @guardian_sport
We can afford it, so let’s pay! No excuses. James H #avfc #LivingWage http://ow.ly/QRCaU @CitizensUKBham http://ow.ly/QRCl9