I was enjoying lunch with a football agent friend of mine yesterday when the Sky Sports News ticker in the room revealed that Aston Villa had ‘given’ their shirt sponsorship deal away to a local children’s hospice called Acorns.
I almost choked on my sandwich. What? A Premier League club has given away £2million worth of sponsorship money — am I imagining this?
This is how our subsequent conversation went…
Me: “Blimey, that’s good of them. I think that’s brilliant”
Agent: “Yes, fair play to them.”
Me: “But why? I don’t get it! Football clubs aren’t normally that generous. What’s in it for them?”
Agent: “Nothing. Just giving something back to community I guess. And it’s good PR.”
Me: “Do you think there is an ulterior motive?”
Agent: “No, I don’t think so. Randy Lerner is like that. He’s minted. He’s never going to miss the money and he’s got a reputation for making gestures like this.”
Me: “Good on him. I wish more clubs and owners were like that.”
Agent: “Me too, but don’t hold your breath!”
And that just about sums up this gesture in a nutshell. It seems staggeringly surprising that a football club has relinquished £2million in favour of helping a local charity.
But when you think about it, why should it be such a rarity?
Aston Villa made £42.3million from TV revenue and prize money last season — a rise of £20million on the previous year. In fact every single Premier League club saw vast rises in earnings thanks to the new TV deal last season, with Bolton the lowest benefactors at a mere £7.5million rise thanks to their lowly league position compared to 2006/07.
Will we see a domino effect with other clubs generously following Aston Villa’s suit though?
I very much doubt it.
Football clubs are businesses I know and they have to make ends meet — but wouldn’t it be nice if more of them gave something back to their local communities.
I applaud Aston Villa for what they’ve done. Randy Lerner deserves a huge pat on the back.
Or maybe he’d prefer a high five instead….
Originally published at 4sportsake.com.