Crisis-hit football club Portsmouth FC today announced that it would be handing Championship debuts to four new players this Saturday, recruited to complete unpaid work experience under the government’s controversial Right To Work scheme for the long-term unemployed.
Due to its precarious financial position, the FA barred the club from signing any footballers in the January transfer window. And after selling a number of top players in a frantic cost-cutting exercise, manager Michael Appleton found himself short of a goalkeeper, a defender and two strikers for Saturday’s crucial fixture against fellow strugglers Bristol City.
Michael Carlisle (22) was a trainee baker in Greggs before he was dismissed in 2010 and had been reluctant to find work since. After being convinced of the benefits of work experience during a discussion about the impending loss of his JSA, Mr Carlisle was posted at the club’s headquarters at Fratton Park, where his duties included cutting oranges into four and waxing the Bentley of goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown.
Carlisle said yesterday “The Gaffer came in sat me and a few of the work experience lads down and told us we’d be starting against City on Saturday. I thought he was joking but then he handed me the number 26 shirt with the name ‘Ben Haim’ crossed out and ‘Carlisle’ written above it in marker pen.”
Portsmouth were one of the first British businesses to sign up to the Right To Work scheme, finding their partnership with shirt sponsors Jobsite yielded an almost endless supply of workers prepared to gain "vital experience in the job market" for around £1.80 per hour.
The Club denied accusations that it is exploiting the vulnerable, and instead claimed that Carlisle’s travelling expenses from nearby Gosport in addition to his Jobseeker's Allowance put him “comfortably among the top earners at the club”.