I'll never forget the way I felt sprinting up Sutton Coldfield high street on a damp, dim January evening earlier this year. I'd really fucked up and you'd have known it from the way I hung my head over my feet as if life had truly given me a knockout blow.
You see, it was transfer deadline day. I'd spent the entire day worrying about Aston Villa, Tom Cleverley and Rickie Lambert. My fingers ached from the amount of news I'd written (not actually that much) and as the deadline rolled over at 5PM, I sat back and relaxed - I'd made it. As my head tilted forward, my eyes met a small, raggedy book next to my computer. You know that feeling when you're on the apex of a rollercoaster? When a pool of dread replaces your lunch? Yeah, you will know that feeling. I sprint out my house with this book in my hand and I don't stop until I run into the shut-off glass doors of my destination.
I'll never forget the way I felt banging on the job-centre door after missing an appointment. The 57.90 pence granted to me each week paid for me to go to football training, it paid for buses to job interviews and more importantly, the little bit I could grant my mother took pressure off of her as she bought shopping week-in and week-out. I'd felt like I'd let everyone down.
I'd previously been working at two radio stations. I'll never be able to thank those who gave me the opportunities to get involved in radio enough. I considered them friends and I hope they considered me the same. I was lucky enough to be paid for my work as a radio producer, and that came to an end when I chose to focus on my University studies. As I left University, situations changed and I was unable to find myself back in work. Fast-forward to January 2015 and here I am, standing outside, frantically ringing my 'job search advisor'. I wished in that moment that 53P/Van Biesbroeck would collide with the Earth rendering myself and everything else into a beautiful nothing. I was ashamed and the next morning, as I trotted back up the same path to 'meet my maker', I'd honestly nothing to excuse myself, so I told them the truth. The job centre replied by severing the £57.90 payment until I could prove that I was not 'working'. Of course, I could not prove this - writing was my passion and this site was kind enough to provide a platform for that. The jobcentre responded by trying to ship me off to Argos, where I could work eight hours a day for the princely sum of jack shit.
What I'm trying (and likely failing) to say is that the basic principle of money means more than just buying the things we need. Money rewards us for the role we play in life and a good wage not only gives someone security, it gives them a sense of meaning and belonging on this rock hurtling around the sun. A good wage offers you the chance to grow yourself into the person you wanted to be.
This is why I'm asking Aston Villa to take the initiative and pay the people who feed us, keep us safe and make sure the matchday experience is enjoyable a decent living wage. Something to be proud of off the pitch. Football clubs generate enough turnover to ensure the people working hard during a matchday have enough financial security and pride in their role to continue in that same job.
The counter argument to this would be that 'people who flip burgers and pull pints have an easy job, why should they earn more money'. If you begin with that, I would retort the following: every single one of us works hard - day in and day out during the week and whether it's working hard at a desk or struggling to get through the working week, the weekend is always there to provide us that period of rest and relaxation. So who gets us through the weekend? It's those toilet cleaners, those taxi drivers, those pint pullers and chip fryers. Working the weekend is a tough gig and people should be rewarded justly. Not only that, but no job should really be seen as a 'dead end job' - perhaps if people were paid a living wage they may be a little more happier with their current job. The amateur economist within me also says that if there more income, there's more money to spend, if there's more money to spend, there's more jobs. Does that sound like a bad idea?
So why can't Aston Villa offer the living wage to all of it's staff? As our friends over at the AVST laid out: the Premier League are offering a 'voluntary agreement' where clubs can opt in and offer the living wage. A voluntary option is pointless - since the option to offer the living wage is voluntary right now. The only club in the league offering a living wage would be Chelsea FC. Aston Villa aren't winning on the pitch, so they may as well win off of it by being the second club in the Premier League to offer the living wage. I'd estimate that a third to half of the staff working on matchdays at Villa Park are on the minimum wage. The figures and economics involved in top division football are obscene and as such create the perfect excuse to offer the living wage for all staff involved in the day-to-day running of a football club. There's no excuse, especially when you realise that FC United of Manchester (in the sixth-level of the English football pyramid) can afford to offer a living wage. Our friends over at My Old Man Said had the same notion.
"If a non-league team like FC Manchester of United can pay the living wage to all its staff, why can't a Premier League team like Aston Villa? Especially when you consider the wages the likes of Charles N'Zogbia get paid a week."
The benefits of the living wage are enormous to those who receive it - but this could more than likely affect the club in other positive ways. Happy staff will possibly create a better atmosphere, a better atmosphere means a better matchday experience.
Aston Villa have had a terrible start to the season and there's a lot to be disappointed about inside and outside of this football club. We go to the football to have fun and to feel part of a larger movement - a community of claret & blue. A massive part of that would be to further involve those running the club on matchdays by offering them the wage that they, and everyone else deserves.