England's richest football clubs shell out fortunes to their players in pursuit of glory.
Today, though, all 20 clubs are accused of penny-pinching because they pay more humble members of staff – such as cleaners, catering staff and shop assistants – the lowest legal wages. Some employees receive only match tickets as recompense, or the promise of commission.
The revenues of Premier League clubs last season reached almost £2bn and they spent £600m on players. But two days before the 2008/09 Premier League starts this weekend, the Fair Pay Network (FPN), a coalition of charities and trade unions, warns that poverty pay is endemic in the league. It found that all 20 clubs are offering positions at the national minimum wage of £5.25 an hour.
The five London clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United – are paying staff at least £2 below the London Living Wage of £7.45, which the Mayor Boris Johnson says is the minimum to avoid living in poverty in the city. The FPN found Blackburn Rovers was offering one match ticket per month and possible commission for a part-time post selling lottery tickets.
The campaign was backed last night by Gerry Sutcliffe, the Minister for Sport. He said: "There is a huge amount of money in football and it's only fair that everyone working for a Premier League club should reap the benefits."
Boris Johnson also lent his support. "Paying the Living Wage is not only morally right, but makes good business sense too," he said.