Industries in Depth

Moving the goalposts: will footballers pledge 1% of their wages to change the world?

Angolan youths play soccer on a beach in the capital Luanda January 23, 2010.   REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

'A collective pledge by football, motivated by impact rather than profit maximization and titles' Image: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Juergen Griesbeck
Founder and CEO, streetworldfootball
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In August 2017 we witnessed the so-called historic move of footballer Neymar Jr from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain FC. The transfer alone was worth €222 million. Once wages are taken into account, it is estimated that the deal will cost PSG around double that figure.

Much of this money will continue to circulate and grow within the upper echelons of the football industry. For fans and football lovers, this will test their unbreakable loyalty to the sport and may lead to disenchantment and alienation.

But this needn’t be the case. Imagine, for a moment, a world in which a portion of the money from Neymar Jr’s record-breaking deal is injected into something of deeper value to football fans and their communities. Now imagine this happens not only with Neymar Jr, but with all football players, everywhere, and with all the institutions and businesses invested in the sport.

This is precisely what we at streetfootballworld are trying to achieve with our new campaign Common Goal. The idea is simple: football players pledge 1% of their salaries to a collective fund, which is then invested in football-based charities around the world.

Over time – and sooner rather than later – the pledge will be extended to anybody in the football industry who generates money through the game. Imagine what creating a lasting connection between the business of football and sustainable social change could mean for the game and the world. A collective pledge by football, motivated by impact rather than profit maximization and titles – and we are talking about just 1%.

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata has already stepped up and become the first player to make the pledge. He’s now calling on his fellow players to do likewise, kicking off a movement to reshape an industry.

Juan is not only an incredibly talented footballer, he is also genuine, interested, and approachable and has a contagious can-do attitude. When Juan and I met in person and discussed the potential of football in general and Common Goal in particular, it was no longer a conversation between a football star and a social entrepreneur. We shared our ideas and our dreams and found that they are, in essence, the same. We want to help as much as we can and we both love football.

I know there are many other people like Juan playing and working in football, people who are seeking to escape the artificial “bubble” they find themselves in. They want to overcome the pattern that the whole world is only chasing money and would happily put contribution before ego. But the protective environment around footballers makes it very difficult to have such face-to-face conversations.

Common Goal wants to maximize the power of football for the benefit of society. We know there is a lot going wrong in football, but we would rather focus on the unique potential of football for good, a potential that the sport continues to demonstrate. We strongly believe in that this is an untapped opportunity for football and that the time is ripe to unlock it. We need to remind ourselves of the essence of the game and thus magnify its beauty.

Some institutions and individuals within the business are working hard to identify ways to “give back to society” and they are already creating truly admirable social impact. However, in many other cases it is rather an afterthought in football institutions. Bottom-line is that there is no systemic connection between the world where football generates resources and the world where football generates impact.

At the same time, a promising development has taken root in the past 15 to 20 years. Organizations driven by social impact — almost all of them NGOs — have identified football as an efficient tool to resolve the issues they are tackling in the fields of education, health, social inclusion, forced migration, trauma caused by war and gender equality. The driving force behind this movement is the passion of social entrepreneurs to support underserved communities in the most effective and swift way. They work in environments where time is of the essence, as the challenges they face are immediate and often a matter of life and death.

streetfootballworld has developed a network of best practice in this field in order to align these community-based organizations to a shared vision. We aspire to build trust among them and offer access to experience and knowledge. We represent more than 120 organizations and more than 6,000 professionals working in more than 80 countries to serve 2.3 million disadvantaged young people. In fact, if streetfootballworld was a football federation it would rank in the top five for reach and second for female participation.

On the one hand, we have an industry that harbours a wealth of gargantuan proportions, built on the passion and loyalty of people; on the other, a football for good community has emerged and matured into a global network of connected, impact-driven professionals and the non-profit organizations founded by them. In their communities, football is making a massive difference in people’s lives, each and every day.

With Common Goal we aim to provide the missing link between these two sides of the football coin. A pledge of 1% is a small step that could drive enormous change. We just need to align behind a united vision for football for our shared passion and for the good of the world.

It took Juan’s generosity and courage to take this first step to kick it off, but it will require all of us to see it through.

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