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Football’s fight to turn the world into a better place

The European Club Association (ECA) is an autonomous governing body recognized by FIFA and UEFA, which represents, protects and promotes the priorities and interests of football clubs at the European level. The governing body aims to secure a deeply engaging commitment concerning the policy-making and managerial process of the international football landscape. Moreover, the ECA works to offer a path to knowledge sharing and services to the governing body’s member clubs in terms of European club football topics.

ECA Awards billede - CSR

Photo: The ECA’s ‘Best Community and Social Responsibility Programme Award’.

The motto of the ECA is “LEADING THE WAY FOR FOOTBALL CLUBS IN EUROPE” and on Monday the 5th of September, the ECA will celebrate the winners of the 7th edition of the ECA Awards as part of the 17th ECA General Assembly. This brings the symbolic capital of the governing body in play. The ECA Awards event is a chance to applaud a football club that excels in highlighting and implementing a sound best practice ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) initiative. Under the label ‘Best Community and Social Responsibility Programme Award’, the ECA have listed 10 club projects that have been selected out of a record number of 48 applications. This exemplifies the growing tendency that football clubs pay attention to their stakeholders. It also demonstrates care for the clubs’ local communities. The latter is no wonder since the livelihood and business models of football clubs are highly dependent on the goodwill to be found in the local communities.

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Photo: An example of Vålerenga’s CSR efforts (source: The European Football For Development Network).

In Norway, Vålerenga’s fight against racism is an initiative that has been around for 20 years. This summer, the club celebrated the anniversary in the tournament ‘Fargerik Fotball’ (colorful football) together with more than 1,000 participating children. Located in the capital of Oslo, Vålerenga is notoriously famous for its social projects and for taking the responsibility of making a positive difference in its local community. The club is located in a part of Oslo with a higher proportion of social problems and the club has grown its social commitment over the years to employ four persons and to include many volunteers. Another example is FC Schalke 04’s ‘Kumpelkiste’ initiative, which is established to offer quick and targeted help to people in need, see video below.

I recently took active part in Responsiball’s[*] CSR-study that ranks football leagues across Europe and beyond based on their CSR efforts. The Dutch Eredivisie was leading the table, which corresponds well with the ECA’s selection of clubs regarding the CSR award (BV Vitesse and PSV Eindhoven). However, no Danish (2nd place), English (3rd place) or Swedish clubs (4th place) found way to the ECA’s top 10. Nevertheless, the focus on CSR seems to be positively associated with my point that there are many benefits to win from participating in CSR activities in the business of sports (see video for more inspiration), e.g. increased reputational capital, brand equity, sponsorship support, fan engagement and so on. In that regard, my perspective is that the better the CSR activities are manifested at the strategic level of the club, the higher the chance for success. Additionally, it is important that the work acknowledges the fact that in the business of sports (given the high degree of emotional equity), there should be a sound balance between strategic priority and execution as the stakeholders are very conscious and concerned about the direction of the club.

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Photo: Responsiball‘s CSR ranking 2016 (click the link to see the entire report).

Below, I have mentioned the nominees for ECA’s ‘Best Community and Social Responsibility Programme Award’ – as listed on the ECA’s web site (source: ECA, 2016)

KAA Gent (Belgium) – KAA Gent Homeless Blue White”

KAA Gent Homeless Blue White helps homeless people, refugees and people in rehabilitation of drug and/or alcohol addiction to build a network of social relations, in an environment with attention to physical and mental health. 65 participants took part in the programme last year.

Paris Saint-Germain FC (France) – RED & BLUE Schools”

Based in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Paris, the RED & BLUE School is an after-school programme which combines sporting and educational activities for children aged 7 to 11, to help them flourish and give them a better chance of succeeding in life. For its first year, the RED & BLUE School welcomed 500 children, out of which 55 in its annual programme.

FC Schalke 04 (Germany) – Kumpelkiste”

In cooperation with fans, members, friends, sponsors and partners the club collects and distributes money-, in kind- and service donations, once they are checked and sorted. About 10,000 ‘Kumpelkisten’, boxes filled with donations and goods were distributed last year to the most needy communities.

PAOK FC (Greece) – Football Unites”

PAOK FC launched the Football Unites programme in October 2015 and kicked off a series of initiatives for the relief of refugees, including a large scale plan of clothing and edibles donation, as well as emergency survival items for refugees in Thessaloniki.

AC Milan (Italy) – Special Soccer Camp”

The Special Soccer Camp programme aims at allowing disabled children, who would otherwise be unable to practice sport, to do so. The programme brings together disabled children and children without any special needs in the AC Milan Summer Camps. Around 70 children are participating every summer.

BV Vitesse (Netherlands) – Vitesse Hattrick”

The Vitesse Hattrick programme started in 2015, including three underlying projects: the Hattrick School, the Hattrick League and the Hattrick Academy. All the activities are executed in five poor neighbourhoods of Arnhem, and every neighbourhood delivers the same activities in their community. 200 participants are accounted on a weekly basis.

PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) –PSV United”

Reacting to the problem of vandalism and annoyance in some neighbourhoods of Eindhoven, the club developed a group focused programme for the youngsters in which their main interest, the football club PSV Eindhoven, is used as an instrument to achieve the pre-selected objectives. 100 children take part in the programme on an annual basis.

Vålerenga IF (Norway) – Vålerenga Against Racism”

Fighting racism, Vålerenga Against Racism carries out a number of activities and projects that have improved integration, creating positive attitude, focus on Fair Play and increased activity levels for children, youth and adults in Oslo.

Aberdeen FC (Scotland) – Dementia Friendly Wellbeing”

Aberdeen FC proactively supports the elderly communities affected by dementia to take part in activities that matter to them, by involving those with dementia in decision making, planning, and evaluating. Aberdeen FC directly engages with and supports 151 people living with dementia or carers weekly.

Villarreal CF (Spain) – Endavant Igualtat”

The Endavant Igualtat initiative involves the collaboration of all 11-a-side reserve and academy teams with a special centre (for disabilities) in the Castellón province, whom they will be sponsoring throughout the season.

[*] Reponsiball is an Internet platform accompanying and showcasing responsible football clubs operating in coherence with communities and the environment.

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