Volunteering at the club is positive, not negative

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Let’s start by assuming that city councillor John Ferrett is acting with the best of motives when he criticises a scheme that involves work being carried out at Pompey by young people.

To him, the issue is clear-cut. Those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance who do cleaning and basic maintenance on an unpaid basis are being ‘exploited’ by the club and it ought to stop.

He is quoted on page 16 as saying: ‘It’s something that a club like Pompey should think very carefully about. It doesn’t sit easily with a community club.

‘If they are employing people to do these tasks they should be paying them.’

He goes on to make reference to how some employees at Fratton Park didn’t receive their salaries during the dark days at the club, adding: ‘I would hope that we are making a fresh start in terms of the way that the club is going to conduct its business.’

Cllr Ferrett’s comments create the impression that Pompey are using volunteers simply to save money. But that isn’t true and isn’t fair.

Let’s look at the facts. Pompey are by no means the only employers offering work placements under the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, where people do tasks as part of their benefits agreement.

And, as the club’s chief executive Mark Catlin points out, this is not Pompey’s doing.

It’s actually a government-led initiative to give people claiming benefits a taste of the working environment and the opportunity to contribute something to their community.

Let’s get this straight. Nobody is being forced to work for nothing at Pompey.

They are volunteers and they have chosen to use their time constructively by helping out the club.

According to Mr Catlin, the volunteers have enjoyed working at Pompey and playing a small part in its new community-led incarnation.

Saying they have made such a contribution should also look good on their CVs.

Unlike Cllr Ferrett, we see this as a positive, not a negative.