Pressure by Dulwich Hamlet football fans has resulted in the club pulling out of using workfare in its grounds. Boycott Workfare were contacted through a Name and Shame form by someone who was forced to work at DHFC as part of Mandatory Work Activity. They told us how they had received a 3 month sanction after they asked questions about the health and safety forms Seetec told them to sign.
Dulwich Hamlet FC fans were quick to respond – as soon as we told them about this they contacted their club to find out what was going on and call for an end to workfare at their club. After talks with the new management, who had inherited the workfare contract from the previous owners, fans managed to get the following statement that workfare would no longer be used:
It has become apparent that the previous owners were using mandatory work activity programmes, and that local ‘long-term unemployed’ people have been assisting on site without payment. We want to support the community in as many ways as possible, but do not feel this is a suitable option. Dulwich Hamlet are willing to speak to any service providers regarding apprenticeships and training programmes”
We welcome that Dulwich Hamlet FC acknowledge that forced unpaid work under threat of benefit sanctions is at odds with supporting the community and that they will not be involved in such schemes. Apprenticeships and training programmes involve poverty wages. To truly support the local community, paying at least a living wage for all work at the club is a good place to start.
Boycott Workfare have received numerous reports of workfare being used in football clubs, and other sports clubs. We encourage others fans to follow the impressive example set by Dulwich Hamlet FC fans in their dedication to workfare free football.
Here, one fan outlines the situation at Dulwich Hamlet FC and their personal response to hearing about its use of workfare:
In the past few months Dulwich Hamlet FC, a non-league club in South London, came very close to disappearing. In spite of attendances doubling in the last few seasons, as well as growth in other revenues, and a player budget significantly smaller than many rival teams, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy with unpaid utility bill debts reaching an incredible £100,000. This state of affairs presided over by the management, fronted by Nick McCormack, was kept secret, even from many at the club, including the Committee that runs the football side of things.
With fortuitous timing, the club was first financially stabilized and eventually bought by Hadley Property Group, who have interests in developing the land around the ground but have declared their desire to make sure the club remains. Whatever concerns we fans may have about what this means for the future are tempered by relief that the club was saved from extinction.
Hadley’s full takeover took a couple of months, during which time several skeletons of the outgoing administration have tumbled out, perhaps worst of all being the news that they were involved in Mandatory Work Activity schemes via Seetec. This horrified many fans, and it was a huge relief that Matt Rimmer, a consultant working with Hadley at the club, moved swiftly to terminate the club’s co-operation with the scheme.
It has led me to reflect on workfare more deeply. I was already against the policy, and have joined actions and demonstrations about it. But it’s a lot simpler to picket or boycott, say, Poundland. Football clubs are unusual amongst businesses in the devotional, inter-generational love they can inspire, and the fact that contrary to what Thatcherism may have demanded they can doggedly survive in spite of business logic.
So what do you do when your football team uses the barefaced exploitation (not to mention wage suppression) of workfare? It’s a question we have luckily avoided through first ignorance and second the fact the new club owners have some semblance of a conscience.
It has made me angrier about workfare as well. The near-mythical logic of the policy is that, in spite of labour efficiencies gradually reducing the work required and the benefits of a reserve army of the unemployed to capital, workfare will imbue an unemployed person’s CV with magical full employment powers and they’ll find a job. The thought that an unpaid stint doing oddjobs at a non-league football club which is being run into the ground by clueless owners is preposterous. This exposes the lie behind workfare. It is a disgusting policy designed to denigrate and demonise the poorest in society, suppress the earnings of those still clinging onto jobs and further enrich a debauched minority of beneficiaries.
There’s a contradiction in football. As a cultural medium its ecstatic moments can illicit such optimism and camaraderie, a real utopian cocktail, but in grubby material reality they are businesses, and as likely to be run badly or immorally as a supermarket or pawnbroker. Even the fan-owned Portsmouth FC – a model of ownership often held up as some kind of radical solution – were exposed as using workfare. I can only applaud Dulwich Hamlet’s new owners for ceasing the program.”