IF I asked you which is the biggest football club in the city of Liverpool, would you say it’s Liverpool or Everton?
Easy, that one, isn’t it?
What if I then asked which football club contributes more to the local community, what would be your instinctive reply? I know that my gut instinct is that Everton contributes far more to the local community than our great club does.
This topic arose following the Liverpool v Real Madrid legends match at the weekend, which was played in support of the LFC Foundation — the club’s official charity. What do we expect from our club in relation to the local community, and does it do enough?
A quick search of the websites of the two clubs shows that Liverpool FC helped almost 21,000 individuals last season through its foundation, with Everton in the Community stating that it has helped to support 2,000 charities, picking up over 80 accolades since 2010, including the ‘Community Club of the Year’ award for the last four years at the Northwest Football Awards.
Perhaps that’s why many of us think of Everton before we think of Liverpool for local charitable impact; maybe Everton is just better than Liverpool at the PR side of things. Or perhaps it is that Everton does more in the community than Liverpool and that is why it receives more press coverage and recognition.
A big question, of course, is does it really matter whether any organisation or individual receives credit or recognition for charitable work it does, as long as it’s doing the work?
I’m intrigued by the conflict that exists in many of us between a desire to do some good in the world and a desire to be recognised for doing good. If our club does as much to help the local community as our neighbours but doesn’t get as much coverage for it, does that matter? Or is it important for the city as a whole and for us as a supporter base to know how much the club is (or isn’t) contributing to the local area?
A few months ago I saw that Rio Ferdinand had donated to a local charity in Manchester and was receiving praise for it, to which he replied modestly that he didn’t want any credit. I immediately thought, if that was the case, why didn’t he just donate anonymously? The answer obviously is that he did want some credit, and I don’t think we can really blame him for that. Footballers generally get a bad press so I wouldn’t criticise him at all for allowing it to be known that he’s made a very generous donation to help people less fortunate than himself. On the other hand, various stories that came to light following the death of George Michael showed how much he had helped people without any recognition at all before his untimely death. I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong answer.
It’s also worth saying at this stage that charity isn’t a competition. This isn’t about us or Everton being the best. Obviously as a city we want two football clubs who care for and contribute to the community in charitable ways, and in fairness to our two clubs that’s what we already have. The wider question is what do we want from our club in this respect and is it important to us as supporters that the club portrays an image of itself as one that is committed to helping others, both in the local area and further afield?
A video on the official website shows the head of the LFC Foundation, Andrea Cooper, saying that “Our fans have told us that they have an overwhelming appetite for the club that they love to have a successful charity. They know that they can do great things when they come together to act collectively to make a difference to the social issues that they care about.”
It’s fairly clear, then, what the club thinks our desires are as a supporter base. So, the question becomes do we do enough or is this another area in which we should be upping our game? My personal view is that large organisations like Liverpool FC can and should always be striving to do more to help individuals who are disadvantaged in life in any number of ways.
Without wanting to start another debate about our owners (bearing in mind that I have no idea what level of charitable work they do outside of our club), when looking at how the LFC Foundation was funded in 2014-15 (the period of the last annual report), there doesn’t seem to be any contribution from the club itself, save for the two per cent which comes from the Official Membership:
I have been beating a bit of a drum lately about the tax reductions for corporations and the wealthy members of society that lead to numerous organisations then being forced to rely on charitable donations to survive, as their funding from central government is cut or reduced significantly. What that effectively creates is a stealth tax on the more generous members of society, which is a tax bearing no resemblance to each person’s relative wealth or income.
As 67 per cent of the funds for the LFC Foundation come from fundraising (including things like general donations and ticket sales for legends games), it’s in danger of falling into that category. While charities are always likely to rely on generous members of the public to put their hands in their pockets, regardless of each individual’s level of wealth, it would be nice to see a commitment from the club and/or the owners to at least match what is contributed by supporters and other generous parties who are giving up their hard-earned money to help those less fortunate than themselves, many of them giving that money in addition to buying tickets, food and merchandise for normal matches.
A commitment from the club to match any fundraising efforts would mean that the Foundation is able to improve the lives of even more people. It could be an area in which we are a leading light, committing to lead by example and encouraging all other wealthy football clubs to follow suit in order to give more back to the communities on which they have so heavily relied in the past.
There’s also the question of the extremely well paid first-team players and whether they could contribute from their own pockets to assist the cause (again, I have no idea how much any of our current first team contributes to charitable causes already, so this is not a criticism of any of them).
Heaven forbid, we could even join forces with our neighbours across the park to work together for the benefit of less fortunate members of society. Fans have done that with foodbank donations at every Liverpool and Everton game. Wouldn’t it be a nice story if the clubs could do the same to help unite the two groups of supporters, who seem to be more and more divided as the years progress?
— Fans Supporting Foodbanks (@SFoodbanks) March 24, 2017
My view is that large football clubs represent a microcosm of society itself, with a large portion of wealth distributed unevenly through a small number of people, and those few people could choose to help a huge number of less fortunate individuals by contributing a relatively small percentage of their income to things like the LFC Foundation.
As is often the case with topics like this, there can be more questions than answers, but I’ll leave the last words to our great philosophical manager on a point on which we should all agree:
“The only thing we really need to do is to care about each other, and that’s how the world should work. As a football club, it’s important that we don’t forget this.”