Are volunteers really needed for the Champions League final?

champions-league-logo

Before reading this post, here are a few stats about UEFA, the UEFA Champions League and myself.

  1. The estimated gross commercial revenue of the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup is €1.34bn, from UEFA.com.
  2. The last time the UEFA Champions League final was held at Wembley the cheapest ticket available, including the booking fee, was £176, from guardian.co.uk.
  3. The 2012 winners, Chelsea, received £47.3m in prize money for last season’s competition, from bbc.co.uk.
  4. I have a season ticket at Tottenham Hotspur, watch as much Champions League football as I can and, overall, think the UEFA Champions League is a fantastic competition.

I was forwarded an email last week, originally sent by Team London entitled, “Volunteer at the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final”. The email explained that UEFA needed “300 volunteers with Game-time experience to fulfill a number of roles”. These include: transport coordinators, office assistants, parking assistants and the ‘meeting and greeting’ of thousands of fans amongst several others. A press release by the Mayor’s Office from 4th February states that “10% of the 300 Team London volunteers helping support the UEFA Champions League final will be unemployed young people.”

What’s wrong with that you may ask?

Well let’s break this situation down in to its simplest terms. An organisation with a billion pound annual turnover that provides the money for many, many professional footballers to be paid well over £100,000 a week can’t afford to pay 30 unemployed young people in London the minimum wage to ensure that their showpiece event can go ahead? At face value this certainly doesn’t seem right.

What are the roles that are on offer to potential volunteers? Along with the fun sounding ‘meeters and greeters’ of celebrities and other dignitaries at the event itself UEFA are recruiting for “hospitality lunch bag runners”, “seat stickering runners” and “match-day programme distributors”. For these roles the successful candidate will need to oversea the distribution of 3000 lunchboxes, in coordination with the caterers, place/remove stickers on seats within the stadium and distribute match-day programmes.

To me these roles seem fairly essential to the running of this event and the situation seems to have more than a whiff of job substitution about it. As the Volunteering England website states, “the involvement of volunteers should complement and supplement the work of paid staff. It should not be used to displace paid staff or undercut their pay and conditions of service.”

I’m sure you’re thinking that at least UEFA is following standard best practice and is paying for reasonable volunteer travel expenses? Unfortunately not. The Q&A document provided say that these unemployed young people will have to pay for their own tube/train/bus fare to training sessions and on the actual night. Admittedly UEFA are generous enough to let the volunteers keep the tracksuit they have to wear whilst volunteering.

You may think from the above that I believe sport and volunteering should be kept apart, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost every sports club in the country relies on volunteers to keep them going  and I had many friends who volunteered at the Olympics last summer, all of them proud that they were able to “do their bit” when their austerity-hit country needed them.

However, it doesn’t seem right that at the final of one of the most commercially successful sporting events on the planet the organisers are asking for the unemployed youth of the host city to give up their time for free when handing out millions of pounds to football clubs, several of whom have billionaire owners, to pay the wages of millionaire footballers. It is also a shame that Team London is supporting this initiative when normally they are such a positive force for good in volunteering. The most short sighted part of it is that they could have made some fantastic headlines by guaranteeing 30 part time jobs for unemployed young people of London, all for a relatively paltry sum of money.

Further reading:

There are many volunteering opportunities out there where you can combine your passion for sport and helping others. Charities such as Street League and Right to Play and KickStart Ghana (I’m biased, I admit!) are fantastic examples of this. If you are interested in volunteering check out the following resources for guidance on what to expect and what might be expected of you:

This post was originally written by me for the London School of Economics, who have full copyright. See the original post.

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