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The ethics of living wages for low-paid staff in UK professional football clubs.

Sheffield Business School

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Prof P Prowse , Dr J Snook Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Premier League football clubs, in particular, are accumulating extensive wealth; especially elite clubs in the Deloitte Football Money League 2017. Star players, managers and executives command lucrative wages.

The biggest television deal in world football is generating a combined £10.4 billion, divided between all twenty Premier League clubs; ensuring the richest clubs become even wealthier. Is this wealth bonanza being distributed ethically and fairly within clubs, trickling down to other stakeholders? Evidently, it seems not, with the wealthier football clubs paying insufficient regard to social obligations as responsible employers. Wages are dramatically lower for staff at the opposite end of the Premier League labour market, with many encountering in-work poverty. In fact, Everton, Chelsea, West Ham and, most recently, Liverpool are the only Premiership clubs fully accredited with the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) to pay all lower-paid directly employed staff, and external contractors and agency staff at least the current voluntary ‘Real Living Wage’ (RLW) of £10.20 an hour in London and £8.75 elsewhere.

Many club staff – cleaners, caterers, stewards and other match day roles – are employed indirectly by agencies or contractors and not paid the RLW. The RLW is a voluntary rate assessed by the LWF as constituting a wage level sufficient to live on for workers and their families, and reflecting real rises in living costs. The rates are independently calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, based on the best evidence about nationwide living standards. However, the RLW is not compulsory. It is estimated that 4,607 employers are LWF accredited as of 2018 across diverse sectors.

The RLW is higher than the legal ‘National Living Wage’ (NLW) (increased to £7.50 from April 2017, but only paid to people aged 25 and over), or the ‘National Minimum Wage’ (setting lower rates for younger people aged 24 and under). These statutory rates are set by the Government-funded Low Pay Commission. But, the LWF, unions, and civil society campaigners believe the legal minimum wage is not high enough for the low-paid to live on. There is no academic business and management research on Living Wage policy, practice and outcomes in the context of football, specifically regarding Premier League and Football League clubs.

Specific research questions include:

1. Firstly, why have some football clubs, but not others, decided to become fully accredited employers with the Living Wage Foundation, and, as responsible employers, pay all their staff at least the ‘Real Living Wage’?
2. Secondly, how have LWF accredited clubs set about implementing the ‘Real Living Wage’ policy?
3. Thirdly, what, (if any), are the implications of a RLW for other related (internal) employment and Human Resource Management (HRM) policies and (external) community (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies in football clubs?
4. Fourthly, what outcomes can be identified? What are the views and experiences of staff personally affected by implementation of a RLW? Are there any specific challenges with rolling-out a RLW, such as labour cost implications?


To apply for a self-funded PhD, you will need to meet our entry requirements and provide:
1. fully completed Sheffield Hallam University application form
2. research proposal (4-6 sides of A4 in length).
3. transcript of marks from your highest qualification (we require a dissertation mark of 60+).
4. copy of your award certificates
5. two references, one ideally from an academic source. References must be supplied as recent letters on headed notepaper or on the reference section on the University’s application form.
6. Where English is not your first language, we require evidence of your English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency. An IELTS score of 7.0 overall (with all component marks of 6.5 or higher), a TOEFL test with an overall score of 100 internet based (minimum component score of 23 in listening and reading, 26 in writing and 22 in speaking) or SHU TESOL English Language qualification (final overall grade of A with all components graded at B or higher) or a recognised equivalent testing system. Your test score must be within the last two years.
Information on entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs can be found here

How to apply
Please submit your application to [Email Address Removed]

• February 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm November 22nd 2019
• May 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm February 22nd 2020
• October 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm June 22nd 2020

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses. Information on tuition fees, research and other costs can be found at

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