Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany involved in 'Christmas Way' charity song last year
There's never a shortage of news stories about overpaid footballers and how much club owners are raking in the cash from hard-pressed but loyal supporters. However, there is also another side to the coin that doesn't usually get too much coverage, and that is how the football industry uses its influence to raise significant amounts of money for a wide range of different charities.
The fact is that the massive commercial success of football as we know it today grew out of a sport that started at a very grass-roots level. Any of the top clubs in the world started out as locally based community get-togethers, and this is particularly true of most clubs in the UK. To this day, the spirit of local support and involvement in the community continues, and clubs and players know that they have a lack of respect for this at their peril. Significant contributions on a small scale are common, with local hospitals a popular choice for fundraising and visits from some of the most famous names in the game. However, the industry also makes very large contributions to helping people and communities located all over the world.
Although the Premier League will not release figures for how much individual clubs give to charitable causes, some clubs can't help but generate publicity with the help they give. Arsenal raised almost £820,000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity in a season, and the Chelsea Foundation, an independent charity doing community and charity work, estimated that it reaches more than 800,000 people and helps raise more than £1.5 million a season.
Some of the biggest and most high-profile individuals lend their time to campaigns, such as when Manchester City's captain Vincent Kompany and goalkeeper Joe Hart took part in the festive charity song “Christmas Way”, which raised funds for The Stiliyan Petrov Foundation and The James Milner Foundation, which were then passed on to Help for Heroes, Bloodwise and the NSPCC.
A big combination of football stars get together for Soccer Aid, the British charity event that takes place every other year and was the brainchild of Robbie Williams and Jonathan Wilkes. It has raised over £15 million in aid of UNICEF UK via ticket sales to matches and direct donations from the general public. Two teams made up of celebrities and former professional players and representing England and the Rest of the World play a surprisingly competitive match, which has become a firm favourite amongst footie followers and non-fans alike.
The rivalries between teams can be long held, but as seen at local derbies between the likes of Everton and Liverpool, families can mingle on the terrace wearing both team's colours. This is why football as an industry can play such a vibrant part in raising funds and awareness for a wide range of charities – at its heart, it is all about a coming together of communities.