Sheffield United: Blades 'to review policy' on Living Wage after campaign urges Premier League clubs to "fix the injustice" of paying staff less than £9 an hour

Sheffield United have pledged to review their policy regarding the Living Wage Foundation, following a campaign urging Premier League clubs to “fix the injustice” of paying members of staff below the £9-an-hour rate.

Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 3:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 4:24 pm

Of the 20 clubs in next season's top flight, only Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and West Ham are accredited payers of the hourly rate, which is £10.55 in London and £9 for the rest of the country.

Calculated by the Living Wage Foundation every year, and based on what a family needs to get by, these voluntary rates are higher than the statutory national minimum wage and - for those aged over 25 - national living wage, which are £7.70 and £8.21, respectively.

"We are fully committed to ensuring we continue our approach of supporting all colleagues to receive a salary which fairly represents their job role, their skills, knowledge and experience,” a United spokesperson said, when approached about the Living Wage.

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Bramall Lane (Richard Markham)
Bramall Lane (Richard Markham)

"With regards to the Living Wage Foundation, this is a new suggestion for the club as a new Premier League member and we are currently reviewing it during a very busy period."

In 2016, Premier League clubs promised to go beyond the legal requirement and pay all permanent staff at least the real Living Wage but it was left up to each club to decide if they wanted to insist their suppliers did so and whether to apply for Living Wage Employer status.

With the average hourly wage for a Premier League player now approaching £1,500, Press Association Sport asked the 16 clubs that have not become accredited payers of the voluntary rate if they have plans to do so.

Newcastle declined to comment but the rest confirmed they are meeting the guidelines (newly promoted Aston Villa will be compliant from next month) in terms of their own staff and several said they are moving towards becoming accredited Living Wage Employers.

A spokesperson for Brighton said they have "recently begun inquiries into signing up to the Living Wage charter", while Manchester City, Watford and Wolves explained they are going in that direction.

A spokesperson for Premier League champions City said: "In addition to all directly employed staff, over 95 per cent of our suppliers are also paid the Living Wage rate. The small number that do not yet pay the rate are working towards it and will be required to uplift when their contracts renew."

Manchester United pay all of their staff the real Living Wage and it is understood they, too, are considering expanding this to all who work at Old Trafford.

Leicester have a similar stance and explained they have been working with all "their suppliers and service providers" to make sure everyone working at the King Power Stadium is paid "above the Living Wage Foundation's living wage... within a reasonable adjustment period".

Crystal Palace said they are "reviewing" their policy; Bournemouth, Burnley and Southampton confirmed they are meeting the league commitment to pay their staff at least £9 an hour; and Arsenal and Tottenham said they are paying their employees at least £10.55 an hour.

Norwich chief operating officer Ben Kensell said: "We fully believe in rewarding our staff and are pleased to commit to pay the voluntary Living Wage for all permanent and fixed-term employees.

"To become an accredited Living Wage employer, the club will continue to review the feasibility of implementing the Living Wage across the whole business."

The direction of travel is positive, but the pace of change is still a cause of frustration for campaigners.

Matthew Bolton, executive director at Citizens UK, told PA: "It's good to hear positive noises from some clubs but those not currently accredited must move faster to fix this injustice.

"It's wrong that at the same time as many clubs see huge commercial success and pay managers and players millions of pounds, there are thousands of workers at stadiums across the country who don't earn enough to live on.

"Football clubs have a responsibility to reduce poverty in the communities they call home."

This sentiment was echoed by Jo Stevens, the Labour MP for Cardiff Central and a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

"It's not right that so many people working in our Premier League stadiums are still struggling on poverty wages," Stevens said.

"It would be a proud moment if football bosses stopped burying their heads in the sand, stepped up and started paying every worker a real Living Wage."