A new topic has been added to the wealth of information and knowledge being passed between Europe’s national football associations to help European football continue to evolve – corporate social responsibility (CSR), the focal point of a two-day UEFA seminar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The seminar in Sarajevo, hosted by the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina (NFSBiH), was held within the European body's innovative Knowledge & Information Sharing Scenario (KISS), through which know-how and expertise on various key topics is transmitted across the national associations for the European game’s overall well-being. Participants from national associations and major stakeholders saw presentations and held group discussions on the meaning and importance of CSR, how the issue relates to national associations and European football in general, and how national associations can develop and implement effective social responsibility policies.
Dr Michael Hopkins, a businessman/academic and university lecturer on the topic, defined CSR as "a systems approach that strives to increase social responsibility in all aspects of a corporate body or institution, that is, with all of its key economic, social, financial and environmental stakeholders". He said that the aim of the Sarajevo meeting was to stimulate CSR practices among UEFA’s member associations, and to share with them some basic tools and background knowledge to apply the latest thinking in CSR.
Dr Hopkins emphasised that CSR work provides positive opportunities for national football associations. He advised them to consider a series of steps in pursuing CSR aims, such as identifying a CSR programme's purpose, values and goals; involving senior association management in the CSR process; setting a budget; identifying key stakeholders and specific strategies for each stakeholder; identifying costs and benefits; and adopting efficient communication policies.
National associations and stakeholders gave good practice presentations to show their work in the field of CSR. The Irish Football Association (IFA) presented the strategy and visions behind its impressive community-oriented Football for All programme. The German Football Association (DFB) portrayed its excellent social commitment, including charitable projects and contributions to protecting the environment, and making use of football’s position to help promote a fair, equitable and peaceful society. The Dutch FA (KNVB) showed how it trains coaches in developing countries through its outstanding WorldCoaches programme – not only to acquire football skills, but also to pass on knowledge about local life skills to their young pupils.
UEFA social responsibility partners were present in Sarajevo. Cross Cultures Open Fun Football Schools (CCPA) and Homeless World Cup organisers demonstrated their activities – respectively, grassroots work aimed at using children's football as a path to friendship between people in divided communities, and helping to change lives of homeless people through the power of football. The FARE anti-racism network highlighted its campaign which emphasises that intolerance has no place in football.
Other presentation and topics covering various strands of social responsibility and its relation to football involved the Council of Europe, the International Platform on Sport & Development website, and the Responsiball project – covering areas such as promoting sport's positive values, sharing knowledge, building good practice, facilitating coordination, fostering partnerships between and within different stakeholder groups, and fostering relations between clubs and their local communities.
"It is clear that football associations are already doing a lot of CSR work, and the extent is also dependent on the size of the association," Dr Hopkins told participants. "For many, it would be useful when you go back to your associations to list your key stakeholders, as well as what you are doing." Dr Hopkins suggested a "checklist" of social responsibility possibilities for those associations in the early stages of developing CSR activities.
"Does a ticket to a home game of your national team systematically include a free ride with public transport?" he asked. "Does your association apply a no smoking policy in its football stadiums? Does your association have a programme to accommodate disabled fans? How many women, if any, are on your association’s board of directors, or at executive or middle management level? Does your NFA take out CO2 compensation for business air travel?"
Dr Hopkins identified possible next steps such as the creation of a CSR ambassador, or co-operation with UEFA for a step-by-step easy entry CSR model. Larger associations, he said, could work together and with UEFA to create key performance indicators to measure their CSR progress.
"Europe is a vast continent of different cultures, ideas and knowledge," said UEFA Executive Committee member and UEFA HatTrick Committee chairman Allan Hansen. "This workshop is a 'first' in many ways – it is the start of a learning process, to increase the understanding of social responsibility, and to share ideas and tools, and how these could be put together to best use at national association level.
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