So we all do our bit for charity, a few coins in the collection tin and maybe sponsorship of a friend climbing up a mountain somewhere in the world. Multi-national companies are also increasingly seeing that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key part of linking with their customers and putting them ahead of the competition.
The football industry is in a very unique position and most recently through the extreme values brought in from private investors and media rights, the gulf between the business side and the community has grown. This means that increasingly the charitable sector doesn’t know how best to communicate to the corporate world and the business end on the whole has become less concerned with creativity and engaging audiences – it’s a fast-paced numbers game for them.
Back in Football (BIF) was created to fill the void between business and community in the football industry and through doing so, introduce a notion of Corporate Social Opportunity.
It is not about encouraging people to be more charitable. That is your own personal decision. BIF care about making a difference to the lives of young people through football and do this by creating a range of added value services for footballers, clubs, associations and brands in the industry. It is all based on sound business opportunities and not just donating to a charity. Opportunities where those involved get a return on any investment.
BIF are a new agency with years of experience in the charity and marketing sectors with organisations such as Comic/Sport Relief, Kick Racism out of Football, Adidas, 1Goal, Premier League clubs, Reebok and marketing agencies. BIF provides services to football that include player representation, building and managing foundations, commercial management and match organisation. They are the first football agency to commit profits back into the game through their namesake foundation. Funds from the foundation are distributed to a range of organisations that use football as the educational tool delivering to young people across the world.
Through a special partnership with the Charities Aid Foundation, BIF can create foundations or trusts at a minimal cost and with the best possible support system available. This ensures foundations aren’t set up to re-invent the wheel or misused in any way and allows players who do donate, or who want to do more, to do so in a tax efficient manner.
Footballers could and it has been argued should do more, but one can’t make sweeping generalisations about footballers and their income. After all, the majority of the players are playing at lower league or even non-league clubs, where earnings are no higher than most public service jobs. In fact from our experience the majority of players do care and do want to do more, but often struggle to find the best advice or support, so a donation to a charity of choice is sometimes the best they can do. You’ve also not got to look far for some fantastic examples of how top flight footballers get involved in a variety of ways to support causes they believe in. Craig Bellamy, Didier Drogba, Rio Ferdinand and Leo Messi are just some of the shining examples of how players can take control and make a difference.
CSR has in the past five to 10 years become isolated as a stand-alone department. Brands and sponsors having separate budgets and employment opportunities that concentrate on ‘doing good’. Many football clubs have trusts or community projects that on the whole are managed completely outside of the club itself. This divide is part of the reason the charitable sector is often frowned upon by the corporate world – it is seen always as ‘cap in hand’ constantly begging for donations. Yet if we look around at the most visible and respected organisations of the world, you will find that social outreach and commitment to the community/environment is embedded in corporate culture. Knowing your consumers and community is key to retaining them and so this understanding should be involved from the boardrooms down. By treating CSR as a separate team and in fact by using the word responsibility in general, barriers are created with regards to how people work together.
However, the social opportunity is being recognised in recent years and the role football plays as a tool to educate and engage cannot be denied. The charity delivery partners of Back in Football are some of the best practitioners in this space. The agency has set its stall out with a range of specialist partners who bring value and transparency to all aspects of football. See more at www.backinfootball.com.