INVESTIGATION

What are Premier League clubs doing to help casual and matchday staff during the coronavirus pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic has wrecked the football calendar, but more significantly, threatens to ruin livelihoods. Melissa Reddy investigates what Premier League clubs are doing to protect their workers

Wednesday 18 March 2020 12:15
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Matchday staff face losing their jobs over the coronavirus pandemic
Matchday staff face losing their jobs over the coronavirus pandemic

“My football-mad son, who is seven, didn’t ask me when he could watch a game again. He asked me if I will still have a job. The truth is I don’t know, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that.”

In London on Monday, around 72 hours after the inevitable announcement that elite football will be suspended in Britain due to the coronavirus pandemic, a Premier League matchday steward related his predicament to The Independent.

He had not yet had clarity over his employment in these uncertain times and still hasn’t. He did not want to speak on the record due to this, but warned that “for a lot of us who work in football, it’s not about the loss of the game, but of our livelihoods. There is anxiety. What am I meant to tell my son?”

If you have attended a fixture in England, your experience will have been directed by matchday staff.

From the person helping you find your seat and supervising your safety to the one serving you at half-time, most of the facets around being at a game are taken care of by those who are now at risk of ceding income and their jobs in an unprecedented situation.

Casual staff are crucial to the football experience

Medics, yes. Response stewards, yes. Hospitality crew, yes. Accessibility officers, yes. The more you mark your navigation of a matchday, the bigger the realisation is of how many people fear what happens next.

The ramifications of coronavirus disrupting every element of football extends to the casual workers not tied to stadium work, too. Cleaners. Security guards. Retail store staff. Drivers.

Will they be helped? Last October, Citizens UK highlighted that despite Premier League clubs making a combined £4.2bn in 2018, an estimated 42% of all workers were earning below the voluntary Real Living Wage.

Only Crystal Palace, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and West Ham are accredited with the Living Wage Foundation, committing them to paying all staff and any third-party contract employees higher than the statutory figure of £8.21 per hour.

With so many “left on the breadline” as the report described then, the reality is only more desperate now.

Several top-flight clubs, the best equipped to financially assist such employees in this industry, are engaged in constant dialogue on how to proceed.

There are challenges, not least the uncertain timeframe over when regular business will resume.

Some sides have a wide spread across staff in terms of age – younger people in hospitality and older, more experienced ones as safety stewards as an example – and how often they report for duty.

The coronavirus pandemic threatens thousands of jobs

Quite a few clubs outsource their casual employees from firms like Delaware North, Berry Recruitment and Stadium Traffic Management.

There are those who have no clarity around their own futures in the division and are having to plan more meticulously. Norwich City, for instance, are self-financed with a strict framework and only work off what they earn.

Several executives expressed a desire to “act responsibility at a complex time” and “endeavour to take care of these staff we consider important to our operation.”

Brighton have led the way by taking the “decision as a club to continue paying the vast majority of our matchday staff for the remainder of the season” whether or not their fixtures are fulfilled.

Wolves are remunerating casual non-matchday staff as though they are still working their shifts. For matchday casuals, the club are deferring payment until the games take place, but they plan to compensate them if that that doesn’t happen.

Palace have confirmed that their matchday staff who have been drafted in to work the remaining fixtures “will not be disadvantaged financially.”

Palace are among the clubs protecting their casual staff

The Independent contacted every Premier League club to ascertain their position on casual and matchday workers.

Arsenal

The club will continue to pay matchday and non-matchday casual workers on their payroll up to 30 April 2020 and assess the situation further if there are more suspensions.

Aston Villa

In a fast-moving situation, it has been difficult for the club to provide immediate answers, but matchday staff are being discussed at executive team level.

Bournemouth

The club have been talking through different plans.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Club statement: “We have taken the decision as a club to continue paying the vast majority of our matchday staff for the remainder of the season, whether or not we play the five remaining Premier League games.

“We feel that is really important, whether we play the games in a full stadium, behind closed doors or at all. We want those staff to know they’ve got their pay coming to them.

“That is a small thing we can do. The vast majority of people we employ are local people so it is important we support them, and through them our local economy, at a difficult time and hopefully give them some reassurance, regardless of what else happens, that they still have that income from us to come.”

Burnley

The club will pay all matchday and non-matchday casual workers during the current football shutdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Also applies to casual workers employed by Burnley FC in the Community.

Chelsea

No comment at the moment.

Crystal Palace

Club statement: “Firstly, in order to ensure the impact of this health crisis is minimised, we will not be placing any of our colleagues on statutory sick pay for health issues relating to COVID-19 during this crisis. We are also aware of the impact on matchday casual staff where games are cancelled or played behind closed doors. Whilst we are not anticipating this to be the case, we will ensure that matchday staff who would have been employed by the club for these fixtures are not disadvantaged financially.”

Everton

Everton and Everton in the Community have committed to paying all directly engaged matchday and non-matchday casual workers unable to work due to the coronavirus crisis.

All directly engaged matchday workers will be paid for the remainder of the Premier League season based on their existing terms of engagement and frequency of work previously undertaken. Casual matchday workers will also be paid for any rescheduled fixtures they work when the season resumes.

Non-matchday casual workers, directly engaged by Everton, will be paid for at least the next month based on their existing terms of engagement and frequency of work previously undertaken. This will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Leicester City

With the situation changing so quickly, the club is unable to comment at present.

Liverpool

The club will continue to pay matchday casual workers for the three home fixtures until April 30, which will be based on an average fee pro-rata on the number of league games worked this season. This will be at a cost of around £200-£250k per match to Liverpool, who will continue to review the situation and communicate directly to those affected. Non-matchday casuals will continue to be paid their average earnings over the same period.

Manchester City

Directly employed matchday casual workers will be paid in full for the fixtures they were due to work. They will also receive a payment, based on pro-rata earnings over the last three months, across the remaining five home league fixtures.

Manchester United

The club confirmed that it will pay all its loyal matchday and non-matchday casual workers should Premier League games be cancelled or played behind closed doors for the remainder of this season.

This goodwill gesture reflects Manchester United's desire to reduce the financial uncertainty facing its casual workforce, and is in recognition of the crucial role they play in delivering services to supporters.

The payment will be made to all matchday and non-matchday casual workers who have worked for the club in the past three months.

Newcastle United

No comment at present.

Norwich City

No comment.

Sheffield United

Club statement: “We appreciate that there will be an abundance of questions in the midst of the coronavirus. Whilst we are not in a position to answer all from numerous media organisations in a rapidly evolving situation, Sheffield United wish to inform supporters and stakeholders that conversations are continuing hourly as we navigate the many challenges related to the pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Premier League and medical staff within the Club in a bid to keep everyone informed with developments. It should be stressed that the protection of public health is the priority above all else at this current time.”

Southampton

The club are working as close to business as usual as possible. As it stands, operations for matchday staff haven’t been affected so Saints are unable to comment at present.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have paid the agencies and contractors who supply their matchday casuals. The club intends to retain all their permanent matchday staff in preparation for when fixtures resume.

Watford

No comment.

West Ham United

No comment.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

The club are remunerating casual non-matchday staff as though they are still working their shifts. For matchday casuals, Wolves are deferring payment until the games take place, but they are planning to compensate them if that that doesn’t happen.

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