Saturday 25 May 2019

Mata's Common Goal push needs a game-changer

Manchester United's Juan Mata. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester United's Juan Mata. Photo: Getty Images

Jason Burt

A year ago today Juan Mata launched something that was simple but, still, extraordinarily ambitious. He launched Common Goal. "Something that I hope will change the world, even if only in some small way," the Manchester United midfielder said of the idea that he and his colleagues in football could donate one per cent of their salaries to global charities.

And keep doing that every year throughout their careers. The timing was good. This time last year there was a cynicism about football and the money swirling around it that led to the belief that it had changed for the worse.

The sense that every footballer was turning into his own business unit, cocooned in a protective corporate bubble with a large number of vested interests, sponsors, agents all wanting a piece of that rich pie.

It was interesting listening to England's players this summer at the World Cup in Russia bridle at suggestions that they lived in a bubble. Mata's United team-mate Marcus Rashford took exception to that description, arguing it was a state of affairs not of his creation.

Mata's pledge was to give a small piece of that pie: a one per cent sliver to a group of 120 charities working on social projects across 80 countries through a collective fund called Common Goal which was established through the charity streetfootballworld. It helps 2.3 million disadvantaged young people with football being the umbrella.

It was met with some criticism. One per cent? That was a drop in the ocean. It was nothing. But that was the strength of it. It is only one per cent. It allows footballers to do whatever charitable work they want to support on top and soon Mata was able to reel off a list of players who had signed up.

Twelve months on and the Spaniard has been joined by more than 50 fellow players from 17 countries with the highest profile being Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini, Shinji Kagawa and Kasper Schmeichel and leading women footballers Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.

From the Premier League there is also Bournemouth's Charlie Daniels and Alfie Mawson, who has just moved to Fulham from Swansea City for £15 million. "I don't want to cause any fuss," Mawson said, when he signed up in October 2017. "And joining Common Goal allows me to focus on my career, while forming part of something that can really help transform lives of those less fortunate."

One per cent does not mean it has to be a huge commitment, but it is enough of a commitment especially as it is taken at source. Fifty or so players is a good start, but it is not overwhelming. It is a modest number given how high-profile Common Goal has been and the significant media push.

There are more than 50,000 professional footballers represented by FIFPro and many work for charity or have their own foundations.

Common Goal also has its first manager - Julian Nagelsmann, of Hoffenheim - and, significantly, its first club in Denmark's FC Nordsjaelland, which also made the important step of donating one per cent of its gate receipts from the Europa League fixture against Cliftonville also.

Such a move has even more resonance - in a sense - than an individual footballer signing up as it goes to the heart of the culture of a club.

From this season, every team at FC Nordsjaelland, from U-12s up, will take responsibility to raise funds for an organisation benefiting from Common Goal. Then, every summer, FC Nordsjaelland players will visit the organisations they support.

Maybe even more significant is the involvement of Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin. "I call upon everyone in the international football community to show they care about social initiatives and donate to causes they believe in," he said when signing up last year.

Although that was a wider rallying cry to help, if - and this is the biggest if - Uefa and, then, Fifa embrace Common Goal, it could be the game-changer as Mata outlined. "Every time someone signs for a team, when the salaries are paid, when the accounts come in, at clubs, federations, agents and associations, one per cent goes direct to social projects. No one looks at it and says: 'Hey, what's this one per cent?' because everyone knows," Mata said.

The ultimate end would be one per cent of everything that football generates going into a central fund for use in charitable projects.

For example, this summer Premier League clubs have spent more than £1 billion on transfers. One per cent of that would be a £10m levy to charity.

Common Goal has momentum and has made its mark but, on its first anniversary, it needs help. It needs that game-changer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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