Football clubs investigated over apprentice wages

17 May 2017

The Telegraph has reported that HMRC is scrutinising the basic salaries paid to academy scholars to decide whether they meet minimum wage regulations.

The investigation by HMRC hit the headlines in April of this year when two premier League clubs were raided in a joint operation with French authorities related to suspected tax fraud committed during several transfers of players.

The scope of HMRC inquiries are understood to be much wider. Academy scholar wages at Premier League and Football League clubs are set at £145 per week with an increase to £155 in the second year.

HMRC is understood to be investigating whether the number of hours a week that scholars spend training and playing games equates pro rata to the government minimum wage, set at £3.50 an hour for an apprentice. Scholars’ training programmes vary from club to club but HMRC has been speaking to Premier League and Football League clubs about time scholars spend travelling to play away games or staying overnight in hotels which counts as hours at work.

The Premier League and Football League base the weekly scholar salary on a 40-hour week at the £3.50 rate. It has been a prerogative of both leagues that all scholars should be paid the same rate although once a player turns 17 they are able to sign a professional contract. The very best 17-year-olds in English football now command professional deals in the millions – despite many never having been part of their club’s first-team squad.

As a response to HMRC inquiries, the Premier League will propose to raise the weekly wage to £165 for a first-year scholar and £175 for a second-year scholar to give the clubs a margin of error if boys are spending long periods travelling or away at tournaments. The League is eager that there is no question that boys are paid less than the minimum wage.