Europe’s refugee crisis offers football a chance to show it’s heart

We live in a time where trends veers ever further away from traditional power structures of government and state, leaving a vacuum that is increasingly filled by soft power alternatives. As Europe stares in abject horror as the refugee crisis both state and society too long disregarded becomes impossible to ignore, it is little wonder that the social responsibility of football clubs is being questioned.

Banners emblazoned with ‘#refugeeswelcome’ began to spring up around the Bundesliga, leaving people wondering if Germany’s uniquely communitarian methodology for club management lends itself more freely to charitable giving than its more starkly capitalist British cousins.

If football is indeed a microcosm of society, as is so often said, perhaps the difference can be put down to a lack of societal pressure. As with the chicken and egg conundrum, has it been Germany’s admirable response to the refugee crisis generally that has resulted in so many German clubs being quick to offer assistance or could it be said that by using their large and far reaching media clout an already supported cause has gathered pace.

Borussia Dortmund invited 220 refugees to attend their Europa League match against Odds BK. Bayern Munich have pledged €1 million to spend on providing relief and assistance in the Syria and are intending to set up a youth academy which also provides regular meals and German language classes as well as training.

Whether you believe it is the prerogative of the club to encourage their fans to donate as major soft power contributors filled with role models or the fan’s role to put pressure on their clubs to act it is clear there is a moral obligation that is being embraced much more heartily in German football.

If the potential power wielded by British football clubs to deliver social justice was harnessed more universally, the industry could have a transformative effect on both the political sphere and the charity sector.

This is not to paint British football as miserly. To do so would be a great disservice to the likes of Arsenal who have been working closely with charity Save The Children and have given almost £400,000 to Syrian children since 2012, according to Channel 4. £1 from every ticket sold at the 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium when Arsenal faced Stoke at home will be donated to Syria and when the Big 4 take part in their first Champions League match €1 for every ticket sold will also be given to the cause and fans are being encouraged by government to display banners like those in Germany. UEFA are now encouraging charitable donation to help alleviate the refugee crisis.

Are we witnessing the birth of a more socially responsible footballing community? It could be argued that the refugee crisis provides a special opportunity for the British footballing world to unite against xenophobia. Yet equally, there are countless other issues that could, and should, be embraced. If the British league is categorised as brazenly capitalistic, is the basis of capitalist economics not choice?

Whether you believe that human kind has a moral obligation to help whenever someone is in need or if that is a personal choice depends on your view of human nature. However what is clear is that going forward football’s soft power should be explored further and more widely in order to ease the pain and suffering of those in need.

Image courtesy of Takver.

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