The Football League has announced a new fundraising partnership with Prostate Cancer UK, which will see the 72 clubs taking part in various fundraising activities throughout the season. Cancer sufferer David Annand helped launch the campaign with former England international Luther Blissett and everyone involved will be hoping for similar success to Marie Curie’s in 2010, a cool £400k. David is to walk an impressive 500 miles around football grounds for his charity.
As The Proclaimers will tell you, 500 miles is a long way and you may fall down at the door at the end, but is just shy of half a million a large amount? In the money-go-round of English football, perhaps not.
The Championship, the football league’s top division, is the 4th best attended league in Europe, trailing only the Premiership, La Liga of Spain and Germany’s Bundesliga. Not since 2004 have fewer than 16 million people shelled out for matchday tickets at football league matches
over the season. With a captive audience in the hundreds of thousands every Saturday afternoon, why then could donations fall shy of the half million mark? If for example, every club gave £1 per ticket, that would be £16 million, right?
If you don’t want to know the result, look away now.
Campaigns have been relegated from the Premier League
The Premiership is widely regarded as the world’s most exciting league, bringing with it swathes of injected cash. But the league already has its own Charitable Fund
, which works with its clubs to help them provide support charitable projects. Manchester United
, the most valuable club in the world, have the Manchester United Foundation
, with fundraisers, events and a matchday lottery to fund the development of football. They also have a high profile partnership with Unicef, as well as two other local charities. Arsenal
have paired up with Save the Children
have their own foundation
and Manchester City
nominate a different charity every year. This model among these four behemoths of world football is not the exception but the rule, forcing national campaigns down into the Football League.
Clubs tend to go local
Football clubs cannot really be expected to donate to a charitable campaign when they already support one. Many do nominate a national charity, but their focus is also on local ones. When clubs have limited resources and their target market is community-based, such is football’s tribal nature, it makes perfect sense to put something back - and to do that where your fanbase can see it.
The calibre of players involved
With no disrespect intended to Luther Blissett, he just doesn’t have the same pull as football superstars in a campaign that is more difficult. Manchester United can call on England legend Bobby Charlton to support their ventures
. Former Chelsea hitman Didier Drogba has set up his own foundation
to raise money for African children – his auction alone this year made £250,000. The key to a millionaire footballer organising charity events is that, quite literally, all his millionaire mates turn up. Craig Bellamy is one of the biggest stars in the Championship, but he too already runs his own charity, although his suitability to represent a national campaign is questionable given his chequered past. The point is, many top players are unavailable to a Football League campaign and the ones that are may well have been snapped up by others.
I am not suggesting for one minute that the Football League’s campaign should not happen. Any money raised is vital to the cause and it comes with an obvious raft of intangible benefits, like raising awareness. But it is no great mystery why there is such a difference between attendance and donations.
To beat the £400,000 mark, each person needs donate just 2.5p. Waiting until most football clubs have already selected their charities, then launching your campaign with a single 500 mile run and an almost forgotten footballer is missing an opportunity. The successful managers have signed their top stars before the season and charities are no different. If charities wait until players sign for their rivals, they're not going to get into the Premier League.
Has this got you onside? Or do you want to pitch in and disagree? Leave a comment below.