What Do Premier League Football And Apple Have In Common?
New report says UK football CSR is maturing but needs to train harder and play as a team.
The defences are well and truly warmed up at Cupertino at the moment ahead of the iPhone 5 launch event next week but Daniel Agger isn’t part of the team.
Both brands have an almost religious like appeal to their audiences. Huge queues for product, tattoos and media saturation are just a couple of examples of the more obvious cultural similarities.
Both brands also have long journeys ahead of them on the CSR road and neither showing signs of ticking the leadership box any time soon.
I’ve just finished reading “It’s Not Just A Game: Community Work In The UK Football Industry And Approaches To Corporate Social Responsibility” by Heledd Jenkins and Laura James from the ESRC Centre at BRASS.
If you are into football, sport and all things CSR / sustainability go and take a read. It’s a comprehensive, intelligent and open report that provides a useful stick in the ground for the current state of social responsibility in UK football.
In short, all the clubs deliver effective community work locally with some reaching further afield across international boundaries, many through independent Community Trust models, but fall short on embedded strategic approaches, innovation, leadership and transparency. Whilst that could also be said of that majority of businesses across all sectors, football, like Apple, football is wasting its potential. Community Trust models could be seen as abdicating CSR responsibility to an external organisation when in reality it takes what authentic activity that was present from the main Club completely.
Here is a link to the full report: It’s Not Just A Game
Apple as one of the biggest brands of our times could literally change the world, it sadly chooses not to in the pursuit of pure financial profit. It is that choice that frustrates me and many others. I was hopeful of greater commitment when Tim Cook took over when Steve Jobs passed away but I think they have missed that natural opportunity to become the brand of all brands. Paul Klein also wrote a recent piece from a like-minded perspective called Apple: Performance Without Purpose you should also read.
Football presents an identical frustration. It’s all about profit with CSR as a substitutes warming up on the sideline but never getting a game. Some individuals at clubs are amazing community ambassadors but they are kept at arm’s length from the Board, CEO, business plan and commercial departments. I yearn for the day for a football CEO or owner (and Apple) opts to take the sustainability leadership podium like the Jeff Swartz (ex-Timberland), Jochen Zeitz (Puma) and Paul Polman’s (Unilever) of the commercial world.
Whereas football has at times impressive community credentials yet lacks strategic inclusion or environmental performance (try finding an environmental / sustainability policy or statement at the Premier League), Apple won’t formally report on their sustainability performance either but has made green improvements to their product line in recent years. I often wonder what would happen if the Premier League didn’t dictate their menu of community activities (and funding to go with it).
Maybe the powers that be in both camps don’t think their ‘customers’ care about wider issues beyond the pitch or past their iPhone.
It’s now two years since I challenged football clubs to be the first to formally report the CSR performance to GRI standards, and I know officials at clubs have read this blog, and that challenge still stands – for their benefit more than mine.
And finally, if a certain John W Henry wants Liverpool Football Club to be world leaders in CSR and revel in the competitive advantage that it provides, I’m only a couple of miles from Anfield and can stop by any time.
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