Sports have a universal appeal, and they also encourage us to be the best that we can be. Popular sports such as football, baseball, basketball, and soccer not only attract huge audiences worldwide but also help to promote values of teamwork, striving for excellence, physical fitness, and community spirit. In addition, these sports can generate huge amounts of money, and major sports clubs attract and spend millions of dollars every season. It follows, therefore, that sports have the financial backing, the global reach, and the ethical base to provide much-needed support to a wide range of charities, and most clubs expend a significant amount of time and resources in doing so.
Streets of London
Every soccer club in the English Premier League has at least one charity partner and/or their own charity foundation. A typical example is Chelsea FC, one of London’s top clubs. They regularly raise over £1.5 million per season for charity, part of a wider social responsibility investment of roughly £6million. Impressively, they have stuck to these commitments even when the club has been losing millions of pounds each season. The club’s independent charity, the Chelsea Foundation, is actively involved in hands-on community work, while the club also works closely with two established charity partners, Right To Play and Help A London Child.
In Greece, Olympiacos FC has made headlines for its work with the many refugees stranded in the Port of Piraeus in the club’s hometown. Olympiacos President Vangelis Marinakis has made sure that the club lives up to its core philosophy of helping those in need. As well as serving thousands of meals a day from its stadium kitchens to refugees, Olympiacos has provided much-needed clothing, plus toys and footballs for children. Players go out and distribute these items personally, taking time to talk and play football with the refugee children. The club has previously also been supporting the Greek people struggling through their country’s economic crisis.
Giving something back
Individual players can also make a difference. Though they often make the headlines for their lavish salaries and extravagant celebrity lifestyles, in fact, many sports players are very much concerned with giving something back. Manchester United player Juan Mata recently pledged to give 1% of his salary to charity via the Common Goal initiative to help underprivileged young people around the world. He challenged other players to join him, and the first to accept was Mats Hummels of Bayern Munich.
Common Goal is operated by street foot ball world, a Berlin-based charity that supports 120 football-related causes in 80 different countries. Mata acts as an ambassador for the charity, and this summer spent time working and meeting people in the slums of Mumbai.
Many other sports players are known for their charity work. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is one of America’s best-loved sportsmen, not only for his appearances on the field but also for his tireless charity work, particularly in helping those affected by Hurricane Katrina. He also supports a range of causes through the Brees Dream Foundation among other charitable initiatives. The UK’s David Beckham is a global ambassador for children’s charity UNICEF, and since joining major league soccer in the US, he has advocated for the league’s many charitable activities.
It’s common for high-profile players to establish charitable foundations of their own as well as helping with the work of their clubs. New York Yankees pitcher David Robinson founded High Socks for Hope with his wife Erin to support charities in Alabama that help those affected by tornadoes. Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson and his wife Kim founded the Hudson Family Foundation to support underprivileged children.
Sporting associations also actively work for charity, as in the case of the NBA’s global social responsibility program NBA Cares, which combines hands-on charity work from players and clubs with fundraising and bringing basketball and its values to communities and young people around the world. NBA Cares supports other programs such as My Brother’s Keeper, providing mentoring for disadvantaged children, and Hoops for Troops, which works alongside the military to assist active and retired service personnel and their families.
The controversy around the huge amounts of money spent by top clubs often obscures the good work that these clubs do for charity. Clubs and players alike frequently use their privileged positions to raise awareness and funds for good causes. This can take the form of hands-on involvement or organizing fundraising galas and matches. Wider social responsibility programs are concerned with giving back to the club’s own communities as well as to the wider world. Sports clubs are at the forefront of charitable giving on the planet today, inspiring us all to follow their example.
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