Where the English Premier League Falls Short

Harry Maguire, $99.18 million. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, $62.70 million. Daniel James, $19.38 million.

Though none of these signings are even near icon Paul Pogba’s 2016 transfer fee (roughly $117 million), it is unquestionable that Manchester United splashed some serious cash in this year’s English Premier League (EPL) summer transfer window. While that’s good news for diehard United fans like me — optimistically, after all, it’s indication that our ascendance is imminent — the upward trend in spending is less sanguine for others.

The truth is, for all that Manchester United gets right, they get one thing incredibly wrong: their support staff payroll. United, along with 16 of the 20 current EPL teams, still refuses to pay their entire staff a living wage. Despite the massive amounts of cash shelled out by these clubs on player contracts, stadium renovations and merchandise production, many lower-level employees earn significantly less than needed to sustain a comfortable, “normal” quality of life.

Third-party employees like cleaners, match-day workers and security are often among the lowest paid. More tragic is the fact that the EPL towers over other soccer leagues in revenue. The EPL took in $638 million in revenue followed by the German Bundesliga ($387 million) and Spanish La Liga ($386 million).

The moral philosophical argument for a living wage is clear. Every single person, without exception, deserves fair compensation for his or her labor. Fair compensation means enough to sustain a comfortable quality of life (or, in other words, a living wage). Consequently, employers have an ethical obligation to provide a living wage for their employees. It’s a straightforward proof, and one comprised of incontrovertible truths.

To be clear, a living wage is not a minimum wage, but a more accurate calculation of average expenses and cost of living in a particular area. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the national minimum wage is $10.07. The living wage, however, is $11.04 (and $12.94 in London). Though that may seem a minute difference at first glance, for many it’s the difference between a healthy life and a strained one.

“I struggle to put food on the table for my family and I often have to have cut-price meals,” one cleaner at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium said in an anonymous interview. “Considering the amount of money in football, too, it would be great to see the club paying all their staff a fair and decent wage.”

Alexis Alejandro Sanchez, one underwhelming and underperforming Manchester United midfielder, earns a colossal $3,000 an hour. In contrast, cleaners at the club average just $10 an hour. In a competitive sports league where finances matter as much as performances on pitch, it shouldn’t be the lowest paid workers bearing the financial burden. It is not only intensely outrageous that such disparity exists within the league but harbinger of serious structural and fundamental problem.

The Living Wage Foundation (LWF) accredits all Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea, and West Ham. Tottenham have also pledged to pay their entire staff a voluntary $11.04 an hour, and are awaiting accreditation by the LWF. Commendable as that is, it’s not enough. 25 percent is a failing grade here in college or at school, and it’s a failing grade for the English Premier League as well.

Originally published 9/2/19.



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Nick Shereikis

Hi! I’m Nick. I‘m passionate about mental health, political polarization, and Manchester United — and I write sometimes. Learn more at nickshereikis.com.