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Time for Greater Social and Community Reporting?

Date: 31st August 2016


By Scottish Supporters Network Officer Damon Main. Follow Damon on Twitter @TheAwaySection

Last week saw the sixth annual RESPONSIBALL league rankings table released.  The annual table, which represents the social responsibility scores of the top division clubs across several top level football leagues, saw the Scottish league coming a respectable 7th in the Rankings.

In this day and age transparency across football financial data is hardly ever hidden.  Scratching beneath the surface of balance sheets often sees either a shocking or surprising story in terms of the British £.  Where debate conflicts, the annual financial report more often than not tells a factual tale of where clubs are on a financial footing.

That 7th place for the Scottish league in the RESPONSIBALL table might not at first seem too praiseworthy but it may just give some cause for respect.  Of the 18 countries analyzed a top 10 finish ahead of the likes of US, France and Italy may just highlight that Scottish clubs are having some impact within their communities.

But could Scottish clubs be doing even more to tell us what they are doing across community good practice?  Perhaps more specific governance rankings need developed……

Charity Begins at Home?

Last week brought big news across the UEFA family with the draws being made for the group stages of the elite football competitions – the UEFA European Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.  Vast amounts were put into event management showcasing and talk was of the huge sums UEFA were making available to those lucky enough to compete in the group stages.  It’s said that Scotland’s qualifiers Glasgow Celtic could earn up to £30m from its adventures this season; staggering figures compared to the meagre earnings on offer domestically in the SPFL.

It would seem that European football is moving ever closer to an elite super league system as we approach the year 2025. And, if Celtic keep winning through the qualifying rounds each year, it would seem that the Glasgow club will over the course of the next ten years be bringing in huge amounts of money to the club finances.

The annual RESPONSIBALL rankings serves to detail research into the social responsibility of top level football clubs during the 2015/16 season.  Clubs are assessed in terms of the commitment they have to pillars of social responsibility; namely across three main pillars of governance, community and environmental.  The table compiled by Swiss consultancy Schwery, is a yearly endeavor to highlight and raise awareness of the levels of social responsibility, good community practice and environmental stewardship at the table of elite professional football.

Naturally the seventh place finish in the table shows good practice is occurring in Scotland and a quick look around many SPFL clubs shows further evidence of good charitable practices that are occurring.

It is wholly fair to say that most of the prominent Scottish clubs are doing work across the community that they exist within and have made ‘community’ involvement a very transparent part of integrated club communications. Involvement is regularly communicated through integrated social media tools, colorful club websites and homepages or via the use of in-house TV channels.

But RESPONSIBALL have been keen to highlight specific good practices outside of the typical themes of local health and well being, equality and education.  And, it is possibly these unique good practices (independent club fan liaison officers, support for refugees and improved codes of environmental practice) which have pushed the likes of Danish, Swedish and Dutch clubs to the top of the table.

SD Scotland’s work in developing the Supporter Liaison Officer role within Scottish football will helpfully help push Scotland up the rankings – but until then, how can we ensure we’re maximizing the potential of football towards contributing to Scottish society?

Football can be a huge power for societal change and clubs can harness the popularity of their brand within their respective communities to draw attention to relevant issues, encouraging their supporter bases to help address them. Many clubs are doing this and the work of the SPFL Trust in supporting the SPFL clubs’ charities is admirable – especially with programmes such as the very popular and successful Football Fans in Training.

However, could more attention be paid to social reporting and transparency around such activities? We’re starting to see an increase in popularity of methods such as ‘Social Return on Investment’ which demonstrates the change within society through activities invested in (such as walking football). With greater attention being paid to the role of sport and football in making positive contributions to tackling issues such as obesity and literacy levels, wouldn’t it be great to see the level of detail spent on annual financial accounts replicated on their charitable and community activities?

In fairness a large scale physical audit of club social responsibility codes and practices is almost certainly required before any wholescale and fair judgments can be made as to what ‘can be done better’.   But perhaps if Scottish clubs are to climb that table it’s time for some ground breaking good practice to become the norm at Scottish clubs outside of the familiar current standard pillars of involvement.

You can read more about RESPONSIBALL here


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