It is more complicated than you might imagine for a professional footballer to help a charity or establish one of their own – but one woman has successfully set about changing that forever.
When it comes to charity, footballers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Any charitable donations they make will always be viewed as the least they can do in some people’s eyes – and those same people wrongly assume many players simply aren’t interested in helping those less fortunate.
In reality, the players themselves are often keen to help but lack the knowledge and support to actually make it happen. Or at least they did, until now.
Having forged a successful career in football, working for such organisations as Manchester City and the Premier League, Leanne Dingle set up All Heart, a company which gives professional footballers the help they need to contribute to existing charities or set up their own.
And the help was certainly needed, with Leanne recalling one footballer who had been hoping to set up a charity for over three years but just didn’t know where to turn.
“There is a huge amount of support available to footballers who want to buy luxury items, but a total lack of professional strategic advice to assist them to fulfil charitable ambitions,” she says. “I think this is a key reason that many do not do charitable work.
“Also, there is such a level of scrutiny of football players that sometimes they feel doing nothing is less risky than doing it wrong. We’ve all heard about the cases of football players ending up in court for not following correct procedures in line with charity law.
“It was clear that something needed to be done to ensure that the power, wealth and influence of players could be channelled in a positive way.”
The stereotype is that footballers are self-indulgent millionaires, and anything they spend their money on – such as buying a car or shopping at Waitrose – is them sticking up two fingers to the hardworking public who pay to see them play.
But having worked alongside footballers for most of her career, Leanne feels it is an unfair perception.
“My experience is that most footballers are extremely good people who have spent a huge portion of their lives fulfilling requirements that are placed upon them,” she says.
“They are passionate and have great ideas but do not know how best to develop and implement them within the charitable sector and do not have support on hand to do so.”
When Juan Mata announced his support for Common Goal, an initiative which asks players to donate one per cent of their salary, attention soon turned away from his generosity and onto the rest the Manchester United squad, with questions asked as to why they couldn’t donate, too.
But Leanne stresses that for an initiative to work there must be an emotional bond between the footballer and the cause.
“Charity only works if it is personal,” Leanne says. “The individual has to have a real affinity with the cause or it just appears transparent and tokenistic and the relationship rarely achieves greats things.
“But if a player has a parent that passed from cancer or is concerned about poverty and creates a project around this, the public will see a genuine connection and relate to their foundation in a much deeper way.”
One of the players Leanne works alongside closely is Michael Carrick, who is trying to effect change in the local communities he’s been a part of. His eponymously named foundation umbrellas five projects, all attempting to support separate issues.
“I have been working with Michael, managing the day to day operations and development of the Micheal Carrick Foundation, on his charity for over a year now and we are seeing fantastic progress,” Leanne says.
“We have a great team in place with full support from both the family and the trustee board as well great partnerships with Manchester United Foundation, Newcastle United Foundation, ITV and local councils.”
Couldn’t believe the size of the queues yesterday! Thanks to everyone who came to the book signing 📚We sold out 🙌🏼 Lovely to meet so many of you💫 #MCBetweenTheLines Next signing in Manchester on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/Khfcv7FfGc
— Michael Carrick Foundation (@_MCFoundation) October 14, 2018
Carrick won 11 major trophies with Manchester United, including five Premier League titles and the Champions League. And his prestige has certainly helped when it has come to his charity work – though the man from Newcastle remains as humble as ever.
“Michael’s book, ‘Between the Lines’, has all proceeds going to the Foundation,” Leanne says. “We have held signings in Manchester, London and Newcastle, and Michael has met fans who have flown over just to meet him from Singapore, Australia, Sweden, Hong Kong and many other destinations.
“However, being the type of person he is, Michael was convinced on each occasion that he would arrive and no-one would be there.”
Another one of the projects is Carrick’s Boot Room, where they ask for unwanted football boots in the Greater Manchester area and then give them to young people.
“To date, we have had over 1,000 pairs of boots donated, and Michael and his family have personally been collecting and sorting through these boots to get them ready to give out to local children between now and Christmas,” Leanne says.
1023 pairs and counting 👣Wow ✨⚽️
So what’s next? All the boots will be cleaned, sized and re-laced, with the aim of distributing before Christmas.
The boots will be given to the children in our Carricks Street Reds programme and other Street Reds programmes in Manchester 🐝 pic.twitter.com/Pc0fyr7GEz
— Michael Carrick Foundation (@_MCFoundation) October 22, 2018
But the key is that Carrick does these charitable campaigns because they are important to him, not because he’s hoping for good PR.
“Michael regularly goes out to visit his projects in the local community and meet the children attending them and he does this because he wants to and is so passionate about the cause.
“From experience, we have found that if a player really feels something for the cause he will take a huge amount of his time visiting projects, meetings beneficiaries and investing resources.”
By Jacque Talbot