Living Wage in Scottish Football

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 September 2016.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-00253, in the name of James Dornan, on a living wage in Scottish football.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the enormous cultural and economic contribution that is made by Scottish football, including at the home of the national game, Hampden, in Glasgow Cathcart; understands that only one of the 12 SPFL Premiership clubs is currently an accredited living wage employer, and notes the view that Scottish football would benefit from a more widespread adoption of the Scottish living wage.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

I thank Willie

Smith and Scott Robertson, who have been fighting for fairness for our young football players for many years. Without their tenacity and determination to do the right thing, we would not be having this debate today.

Scottish football employs thousands of people across the industry. The scale of football is no longer 22 men on a pitch with a referee in the middle. Football runs on a commercial basis now. Stadiums no longer host events only on a Saturday afternoon; they are a constant venue for conferences, parties, charity events, concerts and training days. Footballing organisations employ cleaners, cooks and administrative staff. Even the humble pie takes an employed person to reach the hands of supporters. On match days, staff can work, long, taxing and physical hours, running from one end of the ground to the other, yet many of those people will be on less than the living wage.

Football is one of the most—if not the most—influential sports in the world. Billions of people around the globe are engaged with the sport. The 2014 world cup reached an audience of 3.2 billion people, and 695 million people watched the final live. That is approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population—that is some figure. That is the reach of the beautiful game.

We are all aware of the benefits that sports have in creating healthy communities—at least, we are now; we did not use to be. Football is now more than a sport that is focused on the big teams and their players; it is a vital community engagement tool. The sport is breaking down barriers and bringing people together.

Football also provides multiple benefits for physical and mental health. It supports good mental health through increased confidence and a sense of belonging and team spirit and as a tool to reduce stress. The physical benefits are just as impressive. Recent research suggests that playing football is better for us than going for a run or lifting weights—that is good, because I was rubbish at both. The physical health benefits of football include a reduction in the risk of heart disease and in cholesterol, and it is a means of challenging obesity.

I had the pleasure of attending the University of Glasgow institute of health and wellbeing and Scottish Professional Football League Trust event in the Parliament on Tuesday night, which highlighted the good work that Scotland’s football clubs are carrying out in many areas. There is clear evidence that it is no longer just men who feel the social impact of the game and that football is also reaching older people, women and children.

Given its power and its dependence on support from all members of society, traditionally those from working-class areas, football has a responsibility to ensure that it does the right thing by the people it employs, even if only by setting a good example to others.

For years, it has been understood that football has a massive impact on poverty. An attendee at a recent forum, attended by senior UNICEF figures, professional footballers and sports advisers, concluded:

“The resounding message was that sport does indeed have the ability to affect positive change and promote international development. Of course, it should not be seen as a silver bullet to the problem of poverty and disadvantage. The power of sport to affect change is as a tool, within a broader toolkit.”

Sport has been found to have a profound effect on community health, education and morale, and clubs should not ignore their responsibilities. In that regard, I congratulate Heart of Midlothian Football Club and its forward-thinking chief executive and chair, Ann Budge, on Hearts being the first club in the United Kingdom to be an accredited living wage employer. For a club that has had financial difficulties in recent years, that is a remarkable achievement, which highlights, first, that becoming an accredited living wage employer can be done and, secondly, that benefits accrue from doing so. What better way to impact on poverty than to pay people a living wage?

Some clubs pay their own staff the living wage but are not accredited, because of contracts elsewhere. However, it is unfortunately the case that not all clubs are following the example of Hearts. The disparity between the two biggest Glasgow clubs could not be starker. Rangers Football Club—another club with massive financial difficulties in recent seasons—has made huge steps towards becoming accredited. Only some historical contracts with outside suppliers of services are stopping the club in that regard.

The team that I support, however, has made it clear that it does not support the living wage. I should make it clear that it is the board of the team that I support that has made that clear; most of the fans that I have spoken to certainly support the living wage. I understand that one of the reasons that the club gave for its stance was that paying the living wage would have a knock-on effect on other wages. If Hearts and Rangers, with their financial issues, can afford to pay the living wage, I see no reason why the biggest and richest club in Scotland is unable to do so.

Many of us grew up with tales of how Celtic Football Club started out to help people who needed assistance. Maybe the board should get to know the club’s history and reconsider its position. I am aware of thousands of Celtic fans who agree with me on that—even if they do not always agree with me on other things. I am also aware that Unite the union’s youth committee wrote to Celtic today with a number of questions about the club’s use of zero-hours contracts and about its commitment—or lack thereof—to the living wage. I look forward to seeing the club’s response.

Scottish Football Association staff are paid a rate that is above the minimum wage, at roughly £10 per hour across the board, which is another step towards positive change.

I have spoken to representatives across players’ unions, and it is recognised that some young players are paid even less than the minimum wage. I spoke about the work that Willie Smith and Scott Robertson have been doing to protect young players. There are issues to do with the length of the journeys that young boys have to make, often to get just 15 minutes of game time, if they are lucky, Even worse, there have been reports of top-flight clubs paying young players on contracts just £1 a week. Of course, it is any young boy’s dream to play football, but that dream should not be manipulated by clubs to allow them to fail to meet legal and moral commitments.

Clubs are also involved in the modern apprenticeship programme. The Scottish Government says that an apprenticeship is a tool that provides an opportunity to earn a wage while learning skills and achieving an industry-recognised qualification—in other words, tools for life, such as employability, sustainability and a means of living. The Professional Footballers Association Scotland is concerned that some young men at apprenticeship level are not being paid the amount that they are due.

More than that, young footballers who do not make a career from the game, as most do not, are often left without a skill set. On occasions, that has led to people suffering acute mental health issues, sometimes with tragic consequences. One young lad took his own life after being released from his club, which is devastating.

I am not saying for a second that the clubs should be nursemaids, but they have a duty of care to these young kids and they must fulfil it. One way that they could do that is by educating kids, and ensuring that they are, ready for the outside world when they leave the game.

There is no denying that football reaches into the lives of people across Scotland in a way that most other things, including politics, cannot. Although the Parliament aims to increase the number of living wage accredited employers, I firmly believe that organisations that already have a huge impact on Scottish life should lead the way. That is why I encourage the Parliament and urge all football clubs to set a good example, do the right thing and pay the living wage.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

I refer members to my declaration of interests, as I am a football referee with the Scottish Football Association. I was selected to speak in the debate by my chief whip at the beginning of the week, before my appointment for Saturday’s game was made. I will not enter into some of the conversations that Mr Dornan began about the two biggest teams in Glasgow, because of the role that I will be taking there at 12 o’clock on Saturday.

I agreed with an awful lot of what Mr Dornan had to say, particularly his earlier points. I was interested to hear that involvement in football can be better for people than running or lifting weights. For my involvement in football, I have to run and lift weights, so sometimes all three can be combined.

I realise that members’ business is normally a consensual discussion, and although I agree with much of the substance of what Mr Dornan said, I could not agree with comments that he made just last month, when he called for Scottish Athletics to pay the living wage, just as he is today calling for the Scottish Professional Football League to do so. He put out a press release and, two days later, he wrote to Scottish Athletics only to find out that it actually pays the living wage. I know a number of people in Scottish Athletics who were disappointed that he had not gone to it first to seek clarification. Indeed, he tarnished the name of Scottish Athletics through his comments in the press, which were factually inaccurate.

James Dornan rose—

I will give way to Mr Dornan on that point.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

The letter was sent to Scottish Athletics before the press release was put out, although I accept that it might not have been received. The issue was that Scottish Athletics was not an accredited living wage employer. After discussions, Scottish Athletics accepted that it should do that so that it could set an example to others, and I believe that that will be the outcome. It was not about attacking Scottish Athletics; we highlighted a lot of good work that it has done, and we have allowed it to highlight that even more.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I will give you some extra time, Mr Ross, for your courtesy.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.

Although Scottish Athletics may not have been accredited, it was a living wage employer. That point was lost in translation for some, so it is important to get that clarification on the record.

As I said, I will not get too involved in the club aspects, but I put on record the good work that Heart of Midlothian Football Club has done since October 2014, when it became an accredited living wage employer. We can encourage other clubs and, indeed, all employers to do that. The Government and the Parliament have a target of increasing the number of living wage employers throughout Scotland, and that is a target throughout the United Kingdom.

I have some sympathy for the Scottish Professional Football League, which feels that it is being victimised in this area, as it is the only operation that is being asked to give unanimous approval. Why is it being singled out? Neil Doncaster, the SPFL chief executive, has said:

“why is football the target of focus here and not any other individual sector? Our clubs and their staff carry out huge amounts of positive work in their communities and through charitable initiatives of which the SPFL is very proud and we feel these activities are richly deserving of attention and focus.”

I agree with him. We have to be careful that we do not victimise and pillorise the Scottish Professional Football League. Work can be done and there is cross-party consensus on encouraging people to move forward in that way. However, we should not single out what is, as James Dornan said, a great sport that is enjoyed by so many in this country for some of the criticism and demands that we have heard today when we are not willing to make those demands of every other sector in the country.

I am grateful to Mr Dornan for taking this matter forward. I know that he has written to a number of clubs and I believe that there is a will to move forward on this issue. Every club in Scotland, I understand, pays the minimum wage and some are moving towards the living wage. We would like everyone across Scotland to be able to provide the wages to ensure that their staff can live comfortably but also do the work that they enjoy.

There is work to be done; there is more that we can do. I am pleased to take part in the debate, but I am slightly concerned that some of the comments could be seen as attacking one sector without looking at the breadth of issues that we have to face in Scottish society.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

I thank James Dornan for bringing this important matter to the floor of this Parliament. For my part, I do wish to associate myself with all his comments in his opening speech.

I pay tribute to the magnificent work of the Poverty Alliance in campaigning for a living wage, in promoting the living wage and in diligently accrediting private businesses, public bodies and third sector organisations that apply to become living wage employers in Scotland.

In recent days, I have asked the Minister for Employability and Training in committee and the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work in this chamber if they will consider whether a target of just 1,000 accredited living wage employers in Scotland by this time next year is ambitious enough. That is not a counsel of despair—far from it; it is a rallying cry of hope. With over 360,000 private enterprises in Scotland alone, I think that 1,000 employers is far too timid a target. I make that argument not to stretch the targets for the Poverty Alliance within its existing resources; I make it, gently, in order to set more ambitious targets for the Poverty Alliance, but with substantially increased resources.

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

In commenting on the resource of the Poverty Alliance, I am sure that the member will want to reflect on the fact that the Scottish Government provides resource to the Poverty Alliance to help to promote the living wage.

The member is right to remark that this is a matter that he has raised on two previous occasions this week—on three occasions, now. However, I hope that he will reflect on the fact that, given where we started from, we are fairly early on in the process. Surely a target of getting 1,000 accredited employers in such a short space of time is an ambitious target, although of course it is one that I hope we can exceed.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

As I said at the committee meeting, I think that our definitions of “ambitious” are probably at variance.

I make it clear that, in the broader sense, the question before us is not simply about the individual standard of living of those working people who are employed by Scotland’s top football clubs. It is not even simply about their individual standard of wellbeing. It is, at its very root, about the kind of society that we want to live in.

It is not just a material question; it is an ethical question too. In our top football clubs, the lowest-paid workers especially not only endure the lowest hourly rate of pay but, because they are for the most part on part-time hours, have the lowest weekly rate of pay too. Also, because they are often seasonal workers, they have the lowest annual wage as well.

That reminds me of something that Tom Mann, the socialist pioneer and trade union agitator, said in response to the moralising of Thomas Carlyle to the working class. He said that the corollary of the biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”, is “Thou shalt not be stolen from”. These workers in our top football clubs are being stolen from. That is not just an injustice; it is daylight—and sometimes floodlit—robbery, and we need to bring it to an end.

I say to those clubs and their supporters that this is not just about in-work poverty; it is about in-retirement poverty, too. Large inequalities in wages at work amplify into massive inequalities in household resources in retirement, too.

Finally, it is worth recalling that when Jimmy Maxton, John Wheatley, Jennie Lee and the Independent Labour Party first championed the living wage in the 1920s, while it sprang first and foremost from the harsh daily reality of working-class experience, it also had a theoretical underpinning, based on the economist J A Hobson’s analysis that economic depression and mass unemployment were themselves a direct result of inequality. There was underconsumption and abject poverty on the one hand, with conspicuous consumption and wealth enough to export capital on the other.

I do not begrudge our top footballers high rewards in their often short playing careers, but if ever there was a case of conspicuous consumption in the midst of abject poverty, it would be at our top football clubs. Let us support the motion this afternoon, and join together with the trades unions, supporters’ groups and the Poverty Alliance to step up the pressure on all our football clubs to pay the living wage in the season ahead.

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

I congratulate my colleague James Dornan on bringing to the chamber this debate on the living wage in Scottish football.

The social case for the living wage is clear. It is simply unacceptable that working people find themselves having to turn to food banks or build up unsustainable debt just to get by. Ensuring that everyone has a decent income for the work that they do, and that people can access the goods and services that most of us would deem necessary to live on and in order to participate in society, is something that I am sure every member in the chamber can get behind and support.

I put on record that my interest in the debate relates not only to the very important fair work agenda but to my position as a Heart of Midlothian season ticket holder and Foundation of Hearts member. Hearts was indeed the first club in Scotland—and in the UK—to introduce the living wage. As a fan, I am proud of how my club has conducted itself in the matter and in the investment that it has made in its staff, and of how it has been working with the Foundation of Hearts to make fan ownership a reality. I am grateful to James Dornan for acknowledging the good work of Hearts in his speech—along with the speeches from other members—even if the motion does not quite capture it.

In a football club, many of the staff who will benefit from the living wage will be involved in match-day hospitality. In North Ayrshire, where my own constituency is, around 3,500 people are employed in hospitality. It is an industry in which, unfortunately, far too many people are struggling with low pay and a lack of regular hours. During my time as a North Ayrshire councillor, I chaired an inquiry into non-standard lending and heard evidence from individuals who were employed in hospitality about just how tough it was surviving week to week on a minimum wage with no set hours.

The social case for fair work and the living wage is well rehearsed, but there is also an important business case to be made. Independently conducted research on employers who have introduced the living wage has shown increases in productivity, as a result of living wage employees contributing a higher level of effort and being more open to changing job roles in the organisation. That brings businesses cost-saving opportunities through increasing staff retention and reducing sickness absence.

The value of improved levels of morale, motivation and commitment from staff right across the pay distribution can have a hugely positive effect on the success of a business. As more and more people choose to consume fair trade products and look to spend their hard-earned cash with ethical businesses, it can provide a real competitive edge.

Hearts showed real leadership, and the chair Ann Budge was quoted as saying that the club was

“simply doing the right thing”.

Hearts has sent a very clear signal to other clubs, and to its employees and customers and its supply chain.

Ambitions for growth are not incompatible with acting to create a fairer society. The action that Hearts has taken benefits not just the club and the immediate community but wider society. I commend Ann Budge and Hearts for doing the right thing and I urge others to follow suit.

Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

I congratulate James Dornan on his motion. Like the previous speaker, Ruth Maguire, I declare that I am a Heart of Midlothian season ticket holder and a member of the Foundation of Hearts, and I occasionally sit beside her when we both get to the game.

I am also an accredited living wage employer, as I know a number of my colleagues are. To pick up a point that my colleague Douglas Ross made, there is an important promotional role for all of us who are connected with the living wage. My wish to promote it is not related exclusively to football or to any other area; I believe that there is an obligation on us to promote it wherever possible. The levels of inequality that exist in this very rich society are a damning indictment on all of us, and we know that in-work poverty is a significant part of that.

My party talks a lot about pay ratios. An example of income inequality that previous speakers have mentioned is the disparity between the incomes of people who are in the same organisation. We know that, in the year in which Hearts took its decision, the top 10 per cent of earners had 15 per cent more wealth than the bottom 40 per cent combined. That is a damning indictment, and it represented an increase on the previous year.

The world is full of statistics, but the bottom line is that they often relate to individuals. The press release that accompanied Hearts’ announcement mentioned Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, describing the club’s decision as

“an important step forward for the campaign to end poverty pay”.

He said:

“Almost two in three children in poverty in Scotland live in a household where someone works, and the Living Wage is a vital tool in lifting people out of in-work poverty.”

Importantly, he went on to say:

“Football clubs have an important role in communities across Scotland.”

That has been alluded to—football clubs are an extremely important part of our society.

Another declaration that I would like to make is that I am a member of Oxfam. Last night, I had the privilege of being at a meeting in the Parliament at which Oxfam released its report “Decent work for Scotland’s low-paid workers: A job to be done”, which followed work that it had commissioned from the University of the West of Scotland and the Warwick institute for employment research. The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown, attended the event, and the positive response that he gave to the report was very well received. The report makes a number of recommendations to the Scottish Government and employers.

The project involved the use of street sampling, surveys and another method whose name escapes me. It involved 1,500 people across Scotland. There are various tables in the report about the priorities for decent work. It will not surprise anyone that the top priority that was identified by focus group participants was a decent hourly rate, which the report describes as

“An hourly rate or salary that is enough to cover basic needs such as food, housing and things most people take for granted without getting into debt”.

Oxfam has been involved in a lot of creative work, particularly around the humankind index, which has shown that people’s aspirations are fairly modest. People just want enough. I do not think that that is too much to ask in an industry such as football, in which obscene sums of money change hands. At the most recent game that I was at, I got a pie—some people might think that I got more than one. I was delighted that the young woman who served me said, “And enjoy the game after.” I enjoyed the fact that that person was properly remunerated.

As has been said, it is also good for business for staff to be properly remunerated. In its literature, the Living Wage Foundation quotes someone saying:

“Introducing the Living Wage is not only the right thing to do for our co-workers; it also makes good business sense. This is a long-term investment in our people based on our values and our belief that a team with good compensation and working conditions is in a position to provide a great experience to our customers.”

I am not going to promote the company concerned—it is a large Scandinavian furniture company. I want people to do things because they are the right thing to do and because they make sense. I like the fact that, in its press release on becoming a living wage employer, Hearts said:

“The club feels that implementing the Living Wage is entirely in keeping with the values that we hold dear as Edinburgh’s oldest football club.”

Those values are a sense of community and a sense of social justice.

I commend the motion and thank James Dornan for bringing the matter to Parliament.

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

I join other members in thanking James Dornan for securing the debate, and I thank those members who have contributed to it.

I will begin by picking up on Mr Finnie’s remarks. He is quite right to make the point that many members are signed up as living wage champions. I am happy to say that I am one such member of the Scottish Parliament, and I encourage those members who are not yet accredited to follow suit.

I thought that Douglas Ross’s performance today was much better than it was when I saw him running the line at Firhill park during the recess in the Partick Thistle v Hearts fixture. He called far too many Partick Thistle players offside for my liking. In that regard, not being involved in the same fashion in the fixture that Mr Ross will be officiating at on Saturday, I should like to utterly disagree with his remark that it will involve Glasgow’s two biggest football clubs.

The debate is an opportunity to highlight not only the cultural and economic contribution that Scottish football makes but the distinctive approach to fair work that the Scottish Government has adopted, which includes the living wage. The living wage is critical to us as an Administration. Through our pay policy, we ensure that everyone who works for us is paid at least the living wage. As I mentioned to Mr Leonard, we also provide funding to the Poverty Alliance for it to promote the living wage and, most recently, we have ensured that we are leveraging an additional resource to integration authorities to ensure that those who work in the social care sector can be paid the living wage.

The labour market strategy that we published last month says that we want Scotland to be a more successful and fairer country, with a strong economy and a vibrant, fair and inclusive labour market. A strong focus for the Government is on creating more jobs, better-quality jobs and jobs that work for everyone in terms of skills, pay, security and prospects, because we know that people who feel valued and empowered drive innovation and growth. I will return to that later, but that is why we believe that the living wage is so important and why paying it is the core requirement in the Scottish business pledge that the Scottish Government has established. As well as Hearts being a living wage accredited employer, we should reflect on the fact that it is a signatory to the Scottish business pledge. Indeed, the First Minister launched the pledge at Tynecastle stadium.

As Douglas Ross said, football clubs across Scotland play an important role in the communities where they have roots, supporting a range of social and educational programmes. Given that being a health minister was my previous role, I need not labour the point that Mr Finnie should be eating rather fewer pies when he goes to the football. That is not my concern any more but, having been the minister with responsibility—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There is no need to be quite so personal, minister.

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

That general message is applicable to all members of the Scottish Parliament, Presiding Officer, and not necessarily just Mr Finnie. However, thank you for highlighting that.

As minister with responsibility for sport, I saw much of the good work that is done through the football clubs and their arm’s-length trusts. In that regard, I declare my interest as a member of the Jags Trust. Indeed, just recently, I was able to see that in my area when I met Clyde Football Club Community Foundation and saw the work that Cumbernauld Colts Football Club does.

In my current area of responsibility, we know that many football clubs, including Alloa Athletic, Raith Rovers, Celtic and Rangers, along with Greenock Morton Community Trust and Falkirk Football Community Foundation are engaged in the provision of employability support programmes. Indeed, Morton is now in the top two providers of such programmes in Inverclyde. It delivers programmes that see, on average, 59 per cent of participants moving into work.

A lot of good working is happening, but football’s social responsibility need not stop there. As the debate has highlighted, football clubs can also play their part in tackling in-work poverty. Clubs are often leaders in their communities and they can show leadership on pay as well. Hearts is to be applauded for becoming an accredited living wage employer and recognising the many benefits that that can bring. Only four football clubs in the United Kingdom are accredited living wage employers, Hearts being the only Scottish one. The others are Chelsea, Luton Town and, interestingly, Football Club United of Manchester, which is a semi-professional football team. That shows that there is significant space for growth in the number of football clubs in Scotland and beyond that could be accredited.

Other football clubs across Scotland are paying a living wage. I urge them to join Hearts in becoming accredited. Clearly, it would be positive for the clubs to be visible and to be recognised. Indeed, if clubs are paying the living wage, they should get that recognition.

I will not comment in detail on the exchange between Mr Ross and Mr Dornan about Scottish Athletics, but a clear benefit of accreditation—I think that this is the point that Mr Dornan was alluding to—is that it puts beyond doubt whether an organisation is paying the living wage. Of course, this Administration has enlightened self-interest in more football clubs taking part in the scheme and becoming accredited, as that will assist us in hitting an ambitious target to increase the number of accredited living wage employers to 1,000. I say in passing that the target is reasonable and ambitious, given that we started off—it was not so long ago—by having no accredited living wage employers. Of course, if we can go further, we would be delighted to.

We have made progress with the living wage in Scotland. We now have the highest proportion in the UK of employees who are paid the living wage or more, but we want to go further. Football can play a significant role in that. We know that paying the living wage is important, and not only for those who would be in receipt of it. Ruth Maguire was quite right to point out that supporting greater equality in our economy and economic growth are not mutually incompatible. Indeed, as our recent labour market strategy highlighted, those two aspects support one other. More equal societies are more productive societies, so we will continue to make every effort to promote living wage in football and beyond.

13:21 Meeting suspended.

On resuming—