By Steve Menary
24 May 2013
More than a third of the football clubs across the Premier and Football League have used the taxpayer-funded website at UK Sport to advertise jobs offering no pay.
That shocking statistic was unearthed for Sportingintelligence via a Freedom of Information (FoI) enquiry that shows in the past six months 15 per cent of the positions on the jobs section of the website offered no money at all.
Of 2,127 jobs advertised on UK Sport in the six months to April 2013, there were 319 (15 per cent) that were unpaid. While many of these jobs are voluntary positions working at the grassroots level across a wide range of sports, there were at least 57 unpaid positions advertised by 37 clubs in the Premier League or Football League.
Jobs not offering pay advertised by England’s biggest professional clubs according to information supplied by UK Sport to Sportingintelligence include:
- Arsenal gap-year programme
- Barnsley physiotherapy Intern
- Blackpool football coach
- Cardiff City Sports Science Internships with 1st Team and Development Squad
- Crystal Palace U21 Sports Science Internship
- Huddersfield Town AFC 1st Team Performance Analyst-Intern
- Liverpool International Football Academy Coach
- Middlesbrough Physiotherapist Sports Therapist Rehabilitation
- Norwich City Academy Talent Identification Internship
- Reading Football Club Academy Sports Science Internship
- Sheffield United Academy Strength and Conditioning Internships
- Tottenham Hotspur Performance Analysis Intern
- Watford Community Sports and Education Trust Various Internships Available
- West-Ham United Academy Sports Science Internship
- Wigan Athletic Performance Analysis Internship
A full list of the clubs offering unpaid jobs is at the bottom of this article.
Spurs have used UK Sport twice to advertise for unpaid performance analysis internships. In a response, a Spurs spokesman said: “Successful candidates for longer-term placements are paid via an expenses package to cover accommodation and cost of living. Our internship programme offers valuable experience and training, as well as potential future employment opportunities, to young people seeking a career in the field of sport.”
Reading – the Russian-owned club just relegated from the Premier League club whose original posting created much of the controversy around the issue of unpaid work – advertised four unpaid internships in the six months to April 2013.
Some clubs offer internships that do pay and others that do not. Arsenal pays the four people on its strength and conditioning internships £13,000 a year, but anyone joining the Arsenal Gap Year programme is not paid.
An Arsenal spokesman says: “We are very proud of the Arsenal Gap Year Programme, which we have been operating since 2007. Its aim is simple – to offer students and budding coaches the opportunity to gain coaching experience and qualifications while contributing to Arsenal in the Community in the local area to Arsenal, and then to make an impact in a completely different and exciting environment abroad. It’s a training, learning and education opportunity for up to 12 months, with the opportunity of spending four months abroad working with one of Arsenal’s many overseas community initiatives.”
Sportingintelligence contacted a number of other clubs to ask for an explanation over their use of unpaid internships. Cardiff City, Liverpool, West Ham, Watford and Peterborough United, which used UK Sport to advertise six unpaid internships, all failed to respond.
Steve Thompson, managing director of League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge, which advertised five posts on UK Sport offering no money, defended the use of interns at lower league clubs, which have far less money that Premier League sides such as Arsenal and Spurs.
Mr Thompson said: “Over the past three seasons we have been setting up our Centre of Excellence and expanded this to teams from under-8s to under-16s. The five positions highlighted are all part-time posts to assist with these teams.
“Whilst some expenses are paid, as probably one of the smallest Football League clubs in the country, we would not be able to run our academy without input from volunteers. Some are coaches looking for experience and coaching hours to complete various FA Badges and others are performance analysts and sport scientists completing their degrees.
“We get constantly approached for work placement positions, especially from students from the University of Hertfordshire studying sports therapy who need hands on experience to complete their degree. Instead of just looking at those who approach us we feel it only fair to advertise so that all the students who might like the position have an opportunity to apply.
“Neither the performance analysts or the sport scientists’ roles are full time positions nor are they in place of a full time member of staff. As well as allowing the students to get hands on experience once they have qualified we often consider them for a full time position, especially in areas we have expanded.”
Since entering the Football League in 2007, Dagenham & Redbridge has also provided gap year employment to nine students that need this placement to complete a four-year sports management degree. Some of these students were offered full or part-time positions on graduating and the club’s current full-time sports therapist joined Dagenham as an intern. Dagenham & Redbridge offers these interns work for 13-14 months rather than the 40-week period required for their degree.
Mr Thompson adds: “When they are interviewed I try to be upfront with them and say that we are only able to take them on because they are cost effective. However I am very proud to boast that all the students who have gone through this system have, so far, all found permanent employment within weeks of graduating.”
These interns are all paid. In 2007, Dagenham & Redbridge offered a wage of £10,900 and that has just risen to £13,767 a year this year.
That wage is £2,000 a year more than a full-time internship recently advertised by the Football Association, which has also used UK Sport to advertise unpaid positions in the last six months. In this case, the FA was looking for an assistant coach at a regional futsal academy.
A host of top professional clubs in other sports, from Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers and Salford City Reds rugby league sides to Northampton and Saracens rugby union clubs and Durham, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire county cricket clubs also offered unpaid internships on UK Sport but football was the biggest offender.
On hearing about the latest revelations, Gus Baker, co-founder of the pressure group Intern Aware, said: “It is appalling to see that 15% of jobs on UK Sport were unpaid. Young people trying to get a career in sport cannot afford to work for free. We are, however, pleased to see that more is being done by UK Sport to solve this situation.”
Intern Aware met UK Sport last Friday (May 17) and the two sides are preparing a joint position on the issue of unpaid work, but ahead of that statement being issued no new unpaid jobs are being advertised on the website.
In a statement with the FOI response, UK Sport said: “UK Sport provides a free service for advertising vacancies to help the sporting community find the best people for various opportunities across the UK.
“The majority are salaried positions but in keeping with many other websites we do accept internships and voluntary roles as they can be important to sport, as well as those looking to progress their career in this competitive industry.
“It is important to recognise these are not UK Sport roles, nor is UK Sport endorsing the advertised positions. We gain no benefit, financial or otherwise from providing this free service which is designed to give sports organisations the opportunity to promote roles within their organisation as widely as possible.”
Many universities run degrees in sports sciences turning out would-be sports analysts, but all too often entry level positions appear to be unpaid.
The exploitation of young people aspiring to work in the sports media is also widespread. Websites such as Thefootballmagazine used UK Sport to advertise for unpaid writers, and the practice was exploited as ‘exploiting dreams and excluding new talent’ by the National Union of Journalists in a feature on unpaid internships in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes magazine.
Clubs in the Premier or Football League in the 2012/13 season using UK Sport to offer unpaid internships in the six months to April 2013: Accrington Stanley, AFC Bournemouth, Aldershot Town, Barnet, Barnsley, Blackpool, Brentford, Bristol Rovers, Bury, Cardiff City, Charlton Athletic, Chesterfield, Coventry, Dagenham & Redbridge, Exeter, Gillingham, Huddersfield, Leyton Orient, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Millwall, Norwich City, Notts County, Reading, Rotherham, Scunthorpe United, Sheffield United, Southampton, Southend, Stevenage, Torquay United, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Wycombe Wanderers, Yeovil Town.