Within 24 hours of announcing a record £5.14bn broadcast windfall, Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, has come under fire for failing to back the campaign for stadium staff to be paid a ‘living wage’.
Scudamore dismissed criticism of how the Premier League spends its income from the new TV deal – insisting it is not the clubs’ responsibility to pay staff the living wage.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether club pledge to paying the living wage – Scudamore said: “At the end of the day there’s a thing called the living wage but there’s also a minimum wage, and politicians do have the power to up that minimum wage. That’s entirely for the politicians to do, that’s not for us to do.”
Asked whether it made him uncomfortable to see clubs paying some players “half-a-million pounds a week” while other members of staff earned below the living wage, Scudamore said: “No it doesn’t make me uncomfortable.
“The reality is, just like in the film industry, in the pop industry, the talent, the absolute talent, gets paid a disproportionately high amount. That is the reality in any talent industry … The stars that grace the field in the Premier League are world stars, it’s a world market, I don’t set the market rate, it’s set by the world market.”
The total raised from the deal once international rights are taken into account is expected to top £8.5bn over three years from 2016-17, meaning even the bottom club would receive around £99m, while the champions would get £156m.
However, Scudamore said he could not guarantee that the money – up 70 per cent from the previous deal – would not end up in the pockets of the players and their agents.
“I’m not guaranteeing anything. I’m not in a position to guarantee – I work for 20 employers,” he said. “We will sit down and look at what is the proportionate thing we should be doing, and I’m absolutely confident that the clubs will do the right and proportionate thing. But I’m not able to guarantee anything.”
Asked whether clubs should also use the new money to reduce ticket prices due to their status as “staggeringly wealthy” organisations, Scudamore replied: “Staggeringly wealthy in what sense? Not all of them make profits.
“Clearly there are revenues but the clubs will have choices as to what they do with those revenues. Will they be investing in making sure grounds stay full? Yes they will. But I can’t guarantee what each individual club will be doing.”
Premier league accused of ‘greed’
But politicians of all parties insisted that the clubs had a duty to pay the living wage.
Business Secretary Vince Cable told the Standard: “There is a lot of money in the sport. You are getting extraordinarily well-paid players.
“The ordinary fans and ordinary workers around the ground should expect some of the money to come through to them. If companies can afford to pay the living wage, they should.”
“This is conscious greed, plain and simple.”
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris, vice-captain of the all-party parliamentary football team, said: “At a time when people are worried about inequalities in football, it would be a good signal for Premier League clubs to send out by paying all their staff at least the living wage.”
Shadow London minister Sadiq Khan said Scudamore’s remarks were “disgraceful” and urged clubs to pay the living wage so their lowest-paid staff get a salary “that allows them to put food on the table and pay the rent”.
Chelsea are the only Premier League club officially accredited with the Living Wage Foundation for paying the living wage.