Part of the duties of the community department at Premier and Football League clubs is to take players on visits to local schools and charities. Despite what most people think, players on the whole are great and there are very few stories of players not turning up.
Charities and community staff are constantly thanking players for their time over and over again, because a player attending an awards ceremony or a school, training course or hospital does make a huge positive impact.
When Charlton Athletic was in the Premier League, their goalkeeper Dean Kiely stopped a member of the community staff whilst on such a visit and said “please stop saying thanks, this is part of my job and I am lucky to be able to do this”. Whilst this attitude and approach may not be common of every player, it does represent a vast majority and not enough credit goes to players for the good work they do. Incidentally, 12 years on Kiely and his wife still work with the charity even though they have moved 200 miles away and he is no longer playing.
The staff who work with players must also keep their side of the bargain. It is important for them to pick the right players to attend the right events to ensure they are comfortable with what they are doing and make it a rewarding experience for everyone involved. It’s not just about a name turning up. It’s about the person and whether they will relate to what is taking place.
If clubs get this right, they can build real links between players and the community – especially to organisations who use football to educate young people. Increasingly those partnerships with players through their own foundations and clubs are having a real impact and delivering work that makes a difference to the lives of young people.
Professional footballers do a lot of great work and much of it goes un-noticed, due to the wishes of players and the clubs. We could encourage all fans of any club to get more familiar with their club community programmes and see how the players engage in this, as well as their own individual foundation projects. In the days of huge wages and negative tabloid headlines the work being carried out by players helps to keep the club rooted in the community where their customers are based. This is about individuals and clubs doing the right thing, supporting charities and education projects, but it is also right for the business of football.
The work players do in the community is great but what they gain from it as people, for them personally as a brand and for the sport that pays their wages, makes it a good deal for everyone involved and so let’s celebrate that more.
These are the thoughts of Back in Football, CSR partners of Soccerex. Find out more and engage with Back in Football through Twitter @backinfootball.