Football clubs are more than just businesses; they are cultural institutions.
Structurally, many football clubs are run as businesses, and should operate according to the rules and regulations of other similar entities. And yet, in function, they are more than businesses because of their unique standing within the community and great potential to provide social value.
This added dimension calls for football clubs to be even more considerate of their stakeholders than other businesses, which are primarily concerned with delivering financial returns to their shareholders.
A responsible football club is one that is inclusive of its stakeholders in the decisions that it makes and is concerned with the interplay of social and environmental aspects.
You may also see football clubs referred to as being socially responsible or sustainable. These terms are referred to as synonyms on this website.
What is the point of being a responsible football club?
Responsibility has been a hard sell in football because of the way that football clubs are implicitly woven into their communities; football clubs enjoy a high level of loyalty from fans that is unmatched by consumers of other organisations.
However, there is a significant difference between a fan that supports their club their whole life, from a distance, and one that attends matches regularly and is engaged at a much deeper level. A long-term social responsibility policy that demonstrates shared values between the club and its fans can be the differentiator here.
But social responsibility is not just about philanthropy, nor is it just about coaching local children. It is also more than complying with voluntary regulations and having a recycling policy. Though all of this can be part of it.
It is a sustained strategic approach to business that guides the work of everyone involved with the club, addresses the needs of communities, and is in harmony with a club’s surroundings.
The fundamental reasons for conducting business in a responsible way are exactly the same for football clubs as they are in any other business. Here's an example of a few of them, in a football club context:· Increase loyalty among existing fans and raise weekly match attendance · Attract new fans · Create a atmosphere that players and other staff are proud to work in · Add value to sponsors and attract new long-term deals · Open up new funding opportunities · Differentiate from other clubs · Save money on energy and operating costs · Enhance the club’s influence · Improve the club’s reputation and manage risks · Generate positive publicity and media opportunities
Widespread hooliganism and violence in and around English football stadiums during the 1980s led to a number of clubs setting up ”Football in the Community” (FIC) programmes with the government’s backing. At the same time, many of the clubs were under pressure from football authorities to show that they were trying to heal the scars of the past by bringing up a generation of more responsible fans.
FIC among the top clubs in the UK has since evolved due to the rapid professionalization of the game. Most clubs, especially at the top level, are no longer the playthings of a local businessman with a philanthropic and/or egotistical drive; they are global businesses with strategic goals. FIC programmes – many now as charities or foundations, financially distinct from the club – often now represent a large part of the club’s social responsibility practice.
This development is specific to the football sector because of its access and usefulness to communities, but does not reflect an internationally recognised standard of social responsibility, which is an approach that is more strategic and integrated with the main operations of the business.
It is a complicated industry though, and not everything that works in other industries will be applicable here. Football clubs can gain much by learning from each other. Where good practices exist, and can be adapted by others, RESPONSIBALL is there to bag the evidence and put it on display.
RESPONSIBALL’s purpose is to work together with those clubs and organisations that understand the potential in this area and are ready to share what they have learned.
Clubs of the same size, league and country can learn lots from each other but we’ve also found that larger clubs have lots to learn from smaller clubs, and clubs in lesser known footballing countries can also pass on valuable information to those in nations that do better on the international stage.
RESPONSIBALL acts as a platform to encourage the sharing of this knowledge and enhance progress of social responsibility in football.
It was Dave Boyle, former CEO of Supporters Direct that once gave the anecdote, “It’s a regular occurrence for people to ask to have their ashes spread over the turf of their favourite football club when they die. How often have you heard of people wanting to do the same along the isles of their favourite supermarket?”
If you are in to football and understand the social value and potential that it holds, RESPONSIBALL will be of interest to you.
RESPONSIBALL is open to anyone that wants to find out more about, and report on, what clubs are doing beyond the pitch.
You have the opportunity to share your experiences as a fan, player, coach, medical practitioner, journalist, school teacher, charity worker, construction worker, religious educator, local resident, and so on, because you make up some of the people that clubs need to open dialogue with when structuring their approach to social responsibility.
Your opinion is important and we want to hear from you.
We’ve structured the website in such a way that a visitor coming to the site for the first time will get a good overview of what our platform represents.
Unregistered users can search through the latest news and features, and the archive, to understand what football and social responsibility means in practice, browse through the Library to get a feel for the theory, click on each of the tabs to understand the main functions of the website, and contact us with any questions.
However, our aim is for users to register so that we can continue to build our community. Once registered, Match Day members - a user that is not an employee of a club, league, governing body or Supporting Partner - will immediately have access to the Discussion Forum and Good Practice sections. Meaning they will be able to start and contribute to discussions and browse, comment on and upload Good Practices to our database.
Registered users from a club, league, governing body or Supporting Partner will have access to the Training Ground, which is a social networking tool that encourages participation and mutual learning between practitioners in a variety of ways. These users will also have access to the Discussion Forum and Good Practices, alongside Match Day members.