Football’s past, present and future are dependent on philanthropy

Shafi Musaddique

Of the five billion people watching the European Championships this summer, the vast majority may not realise that they are, in fact, watching philanthropists on the pitch. 

Football and philanthropy have been inextricably linked since the birth of the beautiful game.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, organised football (or soccer) was born from the workplace – a burning desire for Britain’s working class to escape the harsh realities of a six-day week in Britain’s industrial heartlands.

John Hope, a pioneering philanthropist in Edinburgh, Scotland, set up what could be the first football club in the world (multiple British clubs and cities stake their claim).  Convinced of the health benefits of outdoors recreation, Hope spent £100 – a sizeable sum for that era – to lease a plot of sheep grazing land for the city’s budding footballers to play on. This was, by his Christian-focused intent, an act of philanthropy to move young working-class men (and almost exclusively men), many of them unemployed, off the crime-filled streets of urban Edinburgh.

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