If not for the people and the planet, then why?
With domestic titles at last finding their new homes for another year, the longest campaign in footballing history has finally come to an end – and with it memories of the game’s most unusual season etched into the memory forever.
As we await who is to be crowned champions of the remaining European club competitions, another trophy ceremony in front of an empty stadium beckons and sure to provide another stark reminder of how much football needs its fans.
With today marking Common Goal’s third anniversary, it takes place within the hugely challenging context of COVID-19 and as we continue to probe what the role of the football industry can play in support of those fans. If not for them, and more broadly for our people and our planet, then who is this game for?
Three years ago, on August 4 2017 Juan Mata became the first member to join Common Goal, publishing a piece in The Players’ Tribune recognising the disparities between football in these now empty stadiums and football in communities around the world.
At that point, the game hadn’t changed but perceptions of it had. On that very same day, Neymar Jr arrived in Paris for a staggering €222 million in what remains as the current transfer record.
In his article, Mata voiced a rallying cry to show the world the power of his beloved sport, unveiling football’s social impact movement as an antidote to the then prevailing narrative – which failed to include the livelihoods of the very same fans who cultivated the culture of passion and prosperity for football players worldwide.
That summer, he was joined by Mats Hummels, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Giorgio Chiellini, and Serge Gnabry, who were all willing to prove that not only is football a team game but so is social change.
There and then they put aside their club or national loyalties, and transcended football’s gender divide, to form a collective driving progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – from advancing gender equality, to promoting peace, justice, and strong institutions in various regions.
Laid out back then, Common Goal’s mission was, and still is, to unlock 1% of the entire football industry’s revenues, estimated at €50 billion per year – to fund initiatives in support of the Global Goals. The 1% being a symbol of what can be achieved through team play; while everyone can contribute, it is a small individual effort that can generate great impact.
Through Common Goal, the player-led collective helped demonstrate an accessible outlet for both footballers and football-based community organisations existed, and to collaborate in empowering disadvantaged young people and their communities through a combination of football and informal education was possible.
Soon enough, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin took the pledge and so too the first club in the form of FC Nordsjælland – which integrated the 1% as an opt-out clause across all their contracts, in addition to contributing 1% of their stadium revenues – turning player-led collective into industry-wide movement transcending the beautiful game itself.
Beyond football, Common Goal demonstrated a set of guiding principles, slowly becoming more relevant in times of mass upheaval such as these, whereby constant challenges threaten to endanger life on our planet for future generations. Football now has its own vision of maximising its contribution to our people and planet.
Common Goal now works with 138 organisations that are empowering 2 million young people every year and in the space of three years has directly supported 50 football-based community organisations in 35 countries, launching five collective projects in the process (Menstrual Hygiene Management, Social Enterprise Assist, HIV/AIDS Prevention in East Africa, Play Proud and Goal 5 Accelerator).
By connecting those who play the game from every walk of life, from Juan Mata at Old Trafford to young people on the dusty roads of Mumbai, Common Goal has helped forge a bridge between these two worlds of football.
As of the announcement of Paulo Dybala joining last week, the movement currently holds 159 members representing more than 100 clubs and over 40 nationalities, three clubs, and more than 20 businesses, all with one Common Goal.
Within the imagination of both fans and young people across the globe, they now believe there to be another dimension of football and understand how these two worlds can coexist.
The continuous growth of the Common Goal movement, into the one we see today, could largely be put down to this growing trend in opinion: no longer can football survive without a clear proposition on how it can support a fairer society and a more sustainable planet.
During times of recent crisis, throughout coronavirus the pandemic and the ongoing fight to end racial discrimination, football has proved it can and must play a vital role in finding solutions.
Looking forward towards the next 10 years, the increasing interest from football fans and the wider global community regarding the game’s necessity to contribute will only intensify. And given its increasing profits, rightfully so.
Together we've already come a long way and we're only just getting started. It is up to all of us to continue working in the pursuit of a fairer society and a more sustainable planet for all.