Player foundations – to do good or to look good?

Over the past decade, there has been a significant rise in the creation of foundations and trusts linked to professional footballers, especially within English football. What is the real reason for this?

Footballers get a lot of bad press. Regardless of who, what, how or when the media take any opportunity to reveal a dark secret or mistake they may have made on or off the pitch. Some PR agencies exist solely to try and cover up such stories and so long as the media rights values, investments and salaries continue to rise in the game, this negative side of the game will continue to be reported on.

But I am here now to attempt to defend the integrity of the modern day footballer. Not to make excuses for what has or hasn’t been said or done in the past, but to focus on the good things.

A footballer is a role model. There is no denying that fact. Young people see footballers training every day and in some cases earning a full time annual salary from it that most will never earn in a lifetime.

Fortunately footballers are very aware of this. Of course everyone is different, but I am yet to meet someone who doesn’t do their bit for either what they passionately believe in or to simply support people needier than themselves. There is a definite opportunity for footballers to do more, but the problem is not with the players. It stems usually from poor advisors who are seeking nothing but short term financial gain by working with them.

One shining light of support for footballers in the UK is the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). An organisation that exists solely to support professional footballers and works tirelessly for players up and down the country from non-league members through to the Premier League.

Recently Back in Football have been supporting the PFA by helping to shape and grow a foundation that they supported through a registration process for the Stein brothers. Mark Stein, formerly of Chelsea and Luton Town amongst many other clubs, along with his brothers Edwin and Brian wanted to support legacies left by their parents in South Africa and when anyone gets the chance to hear their passion and beliefs, I challenge you not to be inspired and gain faith that footballers do great work.

Foundations or trusts are not-for-profit organisations that exist to do good or affect change. Footballers, more so than many people, are invited to donate money to any number of charities and causes across 365 days of the year and most will do their bit on multiple occasions without any rhyme or reason and often without any credit or awareness attached.

Having your own namesake foundation is a very smart way of doing good. It creates a tangible identity for the player, which can be taken with him or her for rest of their career and beyond, thus creating a business for them after their playing days. It also allows a footballer to benefit from tax breaks. Give as you earn (GAYE) is a system created by our friends at the Charities Aid Foundation that allows people to donate to their foundation (or another) before tax is paid from their salary, meaning the full amount will go to the cause and they will save paying so much tax themselves. Having a foundation doesn’t mean creating a vast amount of extra work for oneself, it could be used to simply support existing best practice in the charity sector and give real credit to the player for their support too. Finally further to the last point, having a foundation means players can and will benefit from the positive PR of doing good… and why shouldn’t they?

There are a few routes that a player can go to establishing a foundation and now Back in Football have found the most cost effective and efficient way yet with the Charities Aid Foundation.

We always try to understand firstly what the individual players believe in, where have they come from and what they stand for. Almost to the point of creating an identity in branding terms for a footballer, but with a firm focus on emotion and relation to issues.

Footballers have a huge amount of responsibility on their shoulders and are idolised by fans worldwide. When more people can start to see and feel the good work that they do, I believe this will also push more players to do more, which can then really instigate change and affect a whole range of causes in a positive way.

This is the opinion of Daniel Wood, managing director of Back in Football, who you can follow on Twitter via @danwood9 @backinfootball.