#THIS ARTICLE IN DUTCH
by: Frank Molema | 24 September 2020
With a solid policy on social responsibility football clubs, competitions and unions not only impact society, but their own organisations as well. This is the message that the European Football Development Network (EFDN) would like to convey to an increasing number of parties in football. In the Netherlands, former trainer Robert Maaskant plays an important part.
The European Football Development Network (EFDN) is a Dutch foundation set up in 2014. The network offers support to clubs, competitions and unions in Europe in community-related activities. ‘When in 2014 we started talking to coordinating organisations like UEFA and ECA, everyone agreed that football should assume social responsibility, but no one considered it a priority’, remembers EFDN’s CEO Hubert Rovers.
Sharing of Knowledge
Obviously, there is much to be gained still, especially in terms of knowledge-sharing and cooperation. This realisation grew around 2014, says Rovers. ‘In 2014 everyone in Europe everyone was trying to re-invent the wheel separately. There was little to no conferring. But precisely the sharing of knowledge and good examples are of paramount value, both at project and at organisational level. As a club, do you set up a separate foundation, or do you create a separate department within your organisation for community-related activities? What do you do with sponsoring and volunteers? Usually, the clubs’ budgets for this type of activities is small, but by forging smart collaborations you can maximise impact.’
Until 2014 this type of support in the Netherlands was carried out by the Meer dan Voetbal foundation, which later merged into Eredivisie CV. Today, six years on, Rovers observes that once Meer dan Voetbal ceased to exist, there was less attention to the value and impact of a corporate social responsibility policy in football, and that community-related activities were on the wane.
Hubert Rovers wants to raise awareness in Europe that a club is more than just a man’s team that should try to win the match
Online knowledge database
Several clubs agreed that awareness should be raised, and asked EFDN whether they could increase its support of Dutch projects and a special online knowledge database for clubs. ‘It makes it possible to preserve knowledge even when people concerned with community-related activities move on to commercial positions. At some clubs turnover in staff is high, but thanks to EFDN there will always be a source to fall back on when the knowledge leaves their organisation.'
When Meer dan Voetbal merged into Eredivisie CV in 2016, Joop Alberda, who oversaw the process, wished for the foundation’s legacy to remain intact. His wish did not quite come true, given the demand among the various clubs. ‘It is correct that not all knowledge and activities then available were absorbed by Eredivisie C.V. But Eredivisie C.V. definitely has a policy of its own on social responsibility and is a partner of EFDN. We work together a great deal, and can jointly fill in the parts that clubs have missed.’
Rovers wants to raise awareness in Europe that a club is more than just a man’s team that should try to win the match. There is so much more potential. Big clubs like FC Barcelona, Paris-Saint Germain, Liverpool FC, Chelsea, Juventus and Internazionale have already joined EFDN, as have smaller lower-division clubs, for instance in Scotland.
‘The great thing is that FC Barcelona can learn from a Scottish third-division club. It does not take Champions League to excel at this’
Meanwhile a hundred socially engaged clubs, competitions and national football unions have committed to EFDN. By promoting football’s impact on society and showing that a solid policy on social responsibility benefits not just society but the football organisation as well, EFDN hopes to inspire many more parties in Europe to join.
Sharing knowledge at get-togethers
The objective is to have every club, competition or union undertake community-related activities and to be socially responsible. Members get together, sharing knowledge and cooperating on European projects. ‘The great thing is that FC Barcelona can learn from a Scottish third-division club. It does not take Champions League to excel at this. That small Scottish club, for instance, has almost as many people working on community-related activities as the average Dutch premier league club.’
The key to success is long-term policy, Rovers emphasises. ‘Of course, one-off campaigns, like visiting sick children at hospitals, are important. But that does not bring a long-lasting gain for clubs. Only if you have a long-term policy in place, with ongoing projects in communities and schools, but also for your own organisation and stadium, will you grow as an organisation.’
‘When you send out information about season tickets, why not ask for one percent extra for community-related activities’
One of the initiatives developed by EFDN is a guideline for clubs to spend 1 percent of their budgets on community-related activities. ‘You could work together with fans and sponsors. When you send out information about season tickets, why not ask for one percent extra for community-related activities. And you could do the same with sponsorship contracts. It is a good way to structurally fund community-related activities. You could also ask the players to donate 1 percent of their salaries.’
In the Netherlands, EFDN has managed to rope in Robert Maaskant as ‘Programme & Partnerships Manager’. Rovers and Maaskant met at NAC Breda, where Rovers was involved in community-related activities while Maaskant was head trainer. ‘I came to know him as someone who is truly aware of football’s impact on society. Coming from professional football, he brings a fresh outlook to the table. He knows how players and trainers think. It is a valuable asset that many people working on the social responsibility side of football lack.’
Maaskant will be entrusted mostly with setting up the collaboration between clubs, competitions, KNVB, companies and public authorities, and developing a model that could be used in other countries as well. In the years to come EFDN would like to enhance the visibility of football’s impact on society where possible, and further disseminate its ideas. The foundation hopes to demonstrate that impact by means of the outcome of European research into community-related projects and activities of European football.
For more information: www.efdn.org