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November 30, 2023

The impact of sports on charity cannot be overstated. As much as sports will continue to positively influence the society mostly through fundraising, there’s still an impression that a lot more needs to be done. Irrespective of that, the role of sports in charity should not be diminished…

By Omolagba Oluwayemi

One of the plagues that has befallen the world which no one has been able to proffer a lasting solution to is homelessness.

Many have been displaced from their homes as a result of wars and political genocide, disasters and epidemics have rendered millions homeless across the globe.

Although millions of charity homes have been set up across the world to curb this persistent issue, the number of those without homes keep increasing.

Sport has taken advantage of its viewership to raise alarm and start campaigns against homelessness with the hope of raising funds to help reduce the its effect on the society to the barest minimum with many sports club having charity homes, but this hasn’t stopped them from creating more awareness in attempt to see it eradicated completely.

In this regard, football clubs in England have made preparations to take the campaign to another level this festive season although reports suggest that there might be some obstacles to achieving this.

As reported by the BBC, The Premier League has blocked its clubs from wearing their away kits at home on Boxing Day, a move aimed at raising awareness around homelessness.

Homeless charity, Shelter hoped to get the support of clubs for the #NoHomeKit initiative on 26 December. However, while the clubs were supportive of the idea, the Premier League says it would break its rules around kits. The rules demand home teams wear home kits as their first priority.

The Football League says it will accept clubs wearing away kits on the same day if they make a formal request.

The Premier League has noted that clubs are allowed to change their sponsor for one game per season and replace it with a charitable message. “The Premier League receives a large number of requests from charities every season, however we aren’t able to support all centrally,” the organization said.

“Clubs are entitled to support charitable causes, and we encourage clubs to do so, provided it is in compliance with Premier League rules.”

Shelter feels the sight of clubs and fans wearing a different kit at a home game would be a powerful message to help raise awareness of homelessness. The organization estimates 180,000 households have lost their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. It has given advice to 22,644 households through its dedicated helpline team during 2020 and 2021.

Former top footballers such as David Beckham and Didier Drogba have been involved in widely publicized ventures in Africa, while boxer Tyson Fury recently vowed to donate his purse from the Deontay Wilder fight to the homeless.

“When I go home I’m going to build some homes for the homeless and set up some funds for drug addicts and alcoholics,” he said in the US last month.

In the modern world, it is hard to find a sporting celebrity – from Cristiano Ronaldo to Serena Williams – who has not dipped into their resources of money or time for charitable causes. The former has helped earthquake victims and the latter has helped establish educational centres in East Africa, among their varied philanthropic ventures.

Although many would wonder why high-earning and high-profile sporting names who seem to have it all – jet-set lifestyles, adulation and huge material wealth – choose to get involved with altruistic initiatives. Are they merely PR and brand-building exercises, a means of countering public perceptions that sports people are pampered and overpaid?

Prof Jen Shang is a philanthropic psychologist at Plymouth University, he says that the reasons for getting involved can be complex, and are not usually driven by cynical concerns such as monetary gains or fame.

“Looking at philanthropy in sport, and other professions, one may start out in one’s career being motivated by external factors such as money or honours. But after a period of time it is unlikely that people are motivated so much by external rewards, and more by internal drives,” she says.

“Top sportspeople might say to themselves, ‘I am achieving so much in my regular role, I would like to branch out and see what is out there in the wider world.’

“And when they become involved in philanthropy, they then find the same sense of reward that they experienced when they started their careers.”

Prof Shang added: “The reason people choose to give money to a cause that is not materially benefitting them is because it is meeting some need.

“By ‘need’, in my research I use the definition of psychological wellbeing. One’s philanthropy can make a major difference, not just to others but to one’s self.”

Prof Shang also said that, if they so desire, sportspeople can eventually become “fluent in philanthropy” by using skills learned in their sporting careers – attributes such as risk management, business management and people skills.

“They are faced by challenges they would not get in their normal environment. Often they have to provide money, time and a lot of tenacity if they are to make their ventures sustainable.

“Problems can be more complex, which is why they often need time and space to develop their philanthropic identities.”

During the 2011-12 season, James Milner officially launched his charitable foundation and since then has donated around half a million pounds to charitable causes including Leukemia organization, Bloodwise, the NSPCC and Help For Heroes.

Two recent high-profile events have included a Celtic v Liverpool legends Match for Cancer at Celtic Park in front of 20,000 fans, and the foundation’s annual ball, attended by Liverpool teammates and manager, Jurgen Klopp. Some £170,000 was raised at each event.

“He is fairly quiet and not usually in the news, but it is good to see him now getting some recognition as a model professional and highly respected player,” says PFA players’ union official John Hudson, a trustee of the player’s foundation.

“Off the pitch he has been a massive advocate for putting something back. James has been really passionate about wanting to go along this road.”

Sport has played and is still playing a major role in charitable foundations and it can as well be said that the popularity of Sports has made a huge impact in the lives of hundreds of people in the world who have turned from being beggars in the streets to people of respected status in the society.

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