Comment: Football for the masses, not classes


Sports outreach work needs to fulfil its stated purpose, and not just provide an opportunity for volunteers to stretch their legs

There was further humiliation for bankers and lawyers this week as the finest football assets owned by Deutsche Bank, UBS and Linklaters were outstripped by a team of Shoreditch teenagers.

Representative sides from the two international banks and the Magic Circle law firm were outclassed by a bunch of whiskery boys in a tournament designed to bring big businesses and underprivileged youngsters together.

football-leader-for-webBut while the football stock of these white-collar workers took a tumble, the real loss in value was to the tournament itself – and to this type of outreach project.

Outreach work was first conceived as a way of offering free education to those from disadvantaged communities. Over the years it has moved towards providing ways of bringing together the privileged and the underprivileged – whether through playing football or painting school walls.

This evolution away from education towards engagement is a good thing. The football starlets in this competition – all from the same Hackney council estate – would be unlikely to enjoy being taught by bankers and lawyers scarcely older than themselves and from vastly different backgrounds.

The problem is that the engagement, as was the case in this football tournament, often stops at sharing the same pitch. When not in action, the bankers and lawyers stood well apart from their teenage opponents. And when the Linklaters’ captain announced the name of the tournament’s best player, he shouted over to the project coordinator for the boy’s name and then received catcalls for his pronunciation of Aaron.

This failed engagement has seemingly been picked up by both sides of this outreach equation. Turnout from City workers was below that of previous years. The winning team only confirmed it would take part at the last minute.

One Deutsche banker, who has played in the tournament for the past three years, admitted there was a problem, saying banks needed to think up other initiatives that facilitated better interaction.

He seemed to be a solitary voice, however. After all it is easier to turn up for an hour, have a kick-about and claim you are helping the community.

(Photo: Billie / PartsnPieces on Flickr)