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More than just a game?

20 January, 2023

The English Football League (EFL) Trust recently published a report attempting to value the social outcomes and impacts delivered by EFL Clubs and Club Community Organisations (CCOs).

The report details the unprecedented scale of community support that EFL clubs and CCOs have provided over the past three seasons (2019-2022), totalling more than £865 million of social value in towns and cities across the country.

Importantly, this goes way beyond football. Support is focused not only on sport participation, but also community engagement, health and wellbeing, education, training and employment, through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community impact has been rooted in the beautiful game since the first ball was kicked, but it’s never been quantified. This research is a ground-breaking step to assess and model the positive social impact that football has on communities, helping clubs understand how effective they are in helping communities to overcome inequalities and disadvantage. It also demonstrates the importance of football clubs and sport more broadly as a catalyst for social change.

So, what to do with all this data? Can the learnings be used to intertwine social and economic value to benefit organisations who are community rich but cash poor? Leveraging tax incentives and making sports clubs eligible for community-focused government grants could be effective ways to promote continued development and deliver social value beyond the sport.

We like to imagine a world in which the transfer market value of a player is based on the hours of community support provided by a club, rather than a monetary value – but we’ll concede that this might be a little far-fetched. A more realistic scenario is one in which a football club which truly supports its community is rewarded for doing so; inspiring a new generation of lower league football owners, who are motivated by having a positive impact on the community, and of course winning a few games along the way.

By Budd Nicholson

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