Charity: our Footballers could do more

28 November 2013 | By Cause4 staff

In 2007, Chelsea Football Club donated three cheques of £1,000 to two hospitals and a brain surgery charity. Goalkeeper Petr Cech, whose career was saved by the three organisations after a head injury, presented the awards. Even though Chelsea have spent £713 million since 2003 (just on transfers) and Cech earned over £50,000 a week, the £3,000 did not actually come out of either of their pockets. Instead, it came from money raised by selling photographs of the goalkeeper to supporters. Not the best example of generous philanthropy....

Since 2007, most top-level football clubs have set up their own foundations or are active in charitable work. In the 2010/2011 season the Premier League and its member clubs raised £167.2 million for charity. Chelsea has also improved in their efforts, raising £2 million for just one charity since the Cech debacle. Between 2007 and 2010 there seems to have been a massive improvement in what football clubs have contributed, and it has only improved further since then.

Unfortunately, most of the good work that football clubs now do for charity stays under the radar. This is even truer for the philanthropic work of individual footballers, which is hardly publicised at all. Instead the media often focuses on petty rumours about the players’ personal lives or fabricated transfer stories. Whilst I am not attempting to defend the ridiculous antics of some footballers, I feel that if their good deeds were shown to the world as blatantly as their idiotic ones, there could be a knock on effect. Positive media coverage may well encourage more people to be philanthropic in the football industry.

There are plenty of standout examples of excellent philanthropic work by footballers which are not widely publicised. For example, how many people know about the £650,000 football academy in Sierra Leone set up by Wales international Craig Bellamy? Or the five hospitals built in the Ivory Coast by Didier Drogba’s foundation? More and more footballers are being philanthropic, even those that haven’t played for the big teams or haven’t been on the highest wage bills such as players such as Jason Roberts of Reading, who set up his own very successful foundation.

The door between charity and football was closed for a long time, but now it is truly open. Despite some standout examples, though, there are many players still untouched by charitable initiatives. There are approximately 540 players in the Premier League alone, most of whom are on significant wages and potentially willing to give. However, many of them will not know how to make the first move. It thus seems it is up to the charitable sector to approach them to inspire them and reap the rewards.

And for some such as Wayne Rooney – the world of enterprise is more appealing – and investment in start up businesses is a great way to inspire change.

What would be the most effective way of making footballers philanthropists? How much philanthropy is there within football compared to other sports? Is the media’s portrayal of footballers fair or unfair?

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