This is a very public challenge to the football industry.
Who will be the first professional football club to produce a credible non-financial report? I’m hoping to use this post to appeal to the intensely competitive nature of sport to raise the Corporate Social Responsibility / Sustainability bar to the dizzy heights of mediocrity.
‘High, wide and handsome’ is a cliché used by football commentators to eloquently describe a very badly executed shot at goal and its resultant trajectory, obviously missing by a substantial margin. It just so happens it describes football’s attempts at CSR and reporting.
I occasionally revisit the world of the business of sport, but now limit any time spent there to assisting in whatever way I can those predominantly at the grassroots level aspiring to affect genuine real social change. (Check out Kick4Change, Don’t X The Line and Predator Conservation Trust). I know I shouldn’t, for my own sanity, but every so often a CSR related sport headline catches my eye and for an instant hope fills my head with optimism. Unfortunately it is a rare event that such hope is sustained beyond that particular 10 minute period.
The latest headline of hope was Manchester City FC’s CSR Report 2010 – and that title alone bouncing around Twitter broke through my defence and sent me off to investigate. For the football industry it is pretty impressive, and that’s the problem. Even though Manchester City FC have more money than you can sheikh a stick at, there is precious little depth or vision to the business of sport. Therein lies the paradox. Sport, and football in particular has amazing potential influence to inspire but never quite gets past merely squandering the television money dominating the game.
Inevitably I immediately encountered a media rich, information poor, series of pictures of children, wind turbines, disabled people and smiling employees accompanied by scattered narratives about community initiatives, but little genuine substance. There are the beginnings of thoughtful environmental stewardship but nothing fantastic to celebrate. Not quite an own goal, but definitely not ‘Premier’ in any aspect.
What is missing is reference to credible data and information on material issues such as ownership and governance, the proliferation of sponsors (and influence) from the world of alcohol, gambling and fast food, supply chains and environmental impact. Who will be the first club to seize a CSR advantage and use the GRI framework, or AA1000, third-party assurance, Carbon Disclosure Project or even a carbon footprint?
It’s not just each club’s naive fault, their regulators don’t genuinely care as long as the money flows. The Premier League, The FA, UEFA and FIFA are all implicit with their poor leadership accepting complacency by merely encouraging template community initiatives as token gestures in many cases.
If a mainstream business publishes a poor CSR report they receive a well deserved kicking. Why are our expectations so low from some high-profile brands with increasingly substantial turnovers?
“This might work well for MCFC fans and the general public who look to the internet for entertainment rather than for a serious disclosure of corporate accountability.
If that was their objective, then why call it a CSR report, a language which most of MCFC fans will associate with Customer Service Representatives and not Corporate Social Responsibility. However, I don’t like it. The little coloured bullets dance around the screen and until you catch one to click on it, you have almost decided not to bother. You can never remember which bullet you clicked on , it’s a bit like a memory game, so you find yourself opening the same bullets over and over again.
Far too creative for me, I m afraid. A simple PDF download would have been much easier to read.
If their objective was to present to more informed stakeholders on their actual CSR impacts, then this report doesn’t work for me. Having to navigate all the individual blue orange and green clicks and internal menu tabs and sliders it just too much effort spent on navigating the report instead of reading it.
As far as reports go, this one is lacking several features we have come to expect of leading reports such as materiality matrix, CSR management process, ethics, governance, workplace practices for all the Club’s employees, player selection and costs, several environmental aspects. There is no index and no adherence to leading frameworks such and the GRI and it is not assured. There are no targets and not assessment of performance against targets.
I clicked on the little envelope top right screen, but nothing happened. I assume this is for feedback. There is no other way to give feedback in the report and despite the pyrotechnics, no interactivity other than endless clicks.
One of the most important things, in my view, is the question of football violence and a football club’s responsibility in ensuring a violence-free sport. This doesn’t seem to be mentioned at all.”
Great quotes from Elaine following her whistle-stop tour of the report and all absolutely spot on as usual.
I wonder who will be first? Which sporting club’s CSR report would you like to see?