In 30 years the PFA has built an impressive community programme, with players assisting in almost 40,000 visits in the 2015/2016 season.
“When we started in 1986, we were scoffed for starting a community program with 6 clubs,” said John Hudson, PFA’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility.
“Now every club wants to be known for making a difference in the community.”
Last week, the PFA published its community work evaluation for the 2015/16 season, which reported that PFA members amassed 38,957 community visits supporting numerous projects around the country.
What began 30 years ago with players visiting schools with a bag of footballs, has grown into a programme that involves all 92 clubs in English professional football. Each club has a community manager. “Some clubs even have 100 person staff in their community department”, Hudson knows.
“It is more than a player showing up to sign some autographs. Their visits do have a meaning.”
“We have made great strides. If you look at the problem of racism and how that situation has improved thanks to the players’ involvement in raising awareness.”
The PFA’s player engagement is organised in detail. The union has a signed agreement with each club and provides it with a guide that clearly outlines what is expected of players during their community visits.
Before the season begins, each player fills in a questionnaire to identify his area of interest. Hudson: “We want to make sure that players are linked to activities in which they feel comfortable and confident in supporting.”
On average, players make 5 to 10 visits per year. “The majority of the players are happy to participate,” Hudson said. “The more you involve the players, the more they want to do, the more they are committed to help make a positive change.”
Clubs have players assigned as ambassadors for issues such as equality, health and education.
The PFA also requests all 92 clubs to select a player as their “community champion”, recognising the efforts this player dedicated to charity and community work. These champions include stars such as Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Petr Cech (Arsenal), Willian (Chelsea) and Chris Smalling (Manchester United), while George Friend (Middlesbrough, photo above) was honoured as the country’s community champion.
“Our biggest achievement was to get everyone to buy in,” Hudson explained. He adds that concerning some issues, football has taken tasks from the government. “For example, some crime prevention projects are run through the clubs.”
For more information about PFA’s Social Responsibility program contact John Hudson.
In 1986, the PFA started its community programs. In England, both football and society were at a low ebb due to a weak economy and widespread hooliganism. Football was the face of everything that was wrong in society.
The PFA helped turn football around, Chief Executive Gordon Taylor OBE explains: “The PFA felt we had to take the initiative. If football was our major spectator and participant sport, then it was clearly a vital part of our social fabric and we needed to use it for the greater good. Some threw up their hands and said ‘there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s just the way society is’.”
The PFA proved they could help change football and set an example to the rest of the football world.
Taylor: “There has been a massive change. Football, instead of dying on its feet, regained its popularity and I like to think from that particular acorn a lot of oak trees have grown and football set that process in motion and set the standard.”
- Published: 14 December 2016