An Australian football club has issued a grovelling apology after being slammed for advertising a job with university degree-level requirements as a voluntary role.
Sydney FC, one of two A-League teams in the Harbour City – and one of the richest in the domestic competition – posted the listing for a “volunteer strength and condition assistant” on jobsearch website SportsPeople on Tuesday.
It outlined several requirements for the successful applicant, including helping in physiotherapy screenings, setting up rehabilitation drills and aiding athletes’ recover from injuries.
An “essential requirement” was a “human movement/exercise/sports science degree”.
— Thomas Bell (@TomRBell93) August 27, 2019
Successful applicants were also expected to attend the club’s training headquarters for 6.5-hour shifts, three to four times a week, for nine months.
As remuneration for the 1014-hour internship, they would receive “invaluable experience”.
The Sky Blues pulled the volunteer call-out late on Tuesday, with the club’s social media accounts declaring that officials would conduct an internal review.
Thanks for your responses & comments everyone. We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously and have removed the position while we review it internally. Thanks SFC
— Sydney FC (@SydneyFC) August 27, 2019
But the listing incensed Australia’s football community – and the union movement, which maintains that experience does not pay the bills.
“To have one of your richest professional clubs doing this is an actual legitimate shame on the sport. Pay your damn workers,” wrote Thomas Bell on Twitter.
“You shouldn’t be asking people to work 9 months full time for no money. Just isn’t right,” said another Twitter user.
“Even if this is for a youth team, it’s bang out of order. Work experience should be just that,” wrote Nine’s football writer Michael Lynch.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus says the expectations outlined in the job listing was tantamount to ‘wage theft.’
“Being employed without pay is never acceptable. Internships which aren’t connected to a uni or TAFE course, trials that drag on for weeks, these are strategies that employers use to get free labour,” Ms McManus told The New Daily.
“It’s outrageous that Sydney FC would try and get a physiotherapist for free. It shows no respect for the work they do, let alone the health of their players.”
The Sydney club responded to social media critics late Tuesday, after concluding its short investigation, saying that the listing was “incorrectly worded & badly phrased”.
“The role is intended to be an internship for 3/4 students each working 1 day per week for 9 months in our High Performance Dept,” it wrote in a statement on Twitter.
After an investigation it seems the role is intended to be an internship for 3/4 students each working 1 day per week for 9 months in our High Performance Dept. However it was incorrectly worded & badly phrased when posted by a team member not usually experienced in such matters
— Sydney FC (@SydneyFC) August 27, 2019
“It is still partially live but on job sites linked to the site of our original post, over which we have no control. They will be removed or corrected shortly.”
Sydney FC CEO Danny Townsend later defended the clarification, declaring the club has an extensive history of providing internship roles to secondary and tertiary-educated applicants, and has given some of them full-time roles.
“We often post ads to provide a fair application process for these internships … In fact we have 6+ current full-time staff who started out as interns with us,” Mr Townsend said.
We often post ads to provide a fair application process for these internships. We are proud of the many professionals now working on our industry who have gained some first work experience @sydneyfc. In fact we have 6+ current full-time staff who started out as interns with us!
— Danny Townsend (@drt15) August 27, 2019
In a 2018 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, club chairman Scott Barlow declared Sky Blues were the equal-largest in the country in terms of commercial earnings, alongside Melbourne heavyweights Melbourne Victory, with revenue of $20 million.
Sydney FC set a new membership record during the 2018-19 season by topping 15,000 fans for the first time. Adult membership ranges from $75 to $165.