August 30 – Forget the obsequious amounts of money being lashed out on footballers, next week Olympiacos FC is hosting a conference in partnership with Harvard University promoting football’s social responsibility, particularly in relation to refugees and other vulnerable groups. The real world people transfers that no-one really wants to face up to, and certainly not club owners.
The conference, titled ‘Reinforcing, Crossing, and Transcending Borders: Soccer in a Globalized World’ will take place in Athens, September 4-6, and will focus on the power and responsibility football has to bring people together regardless of race, gender, religion, culture or nationality.
Senator George John Mitchell Jr., former United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland and the Middle East; and Evangelos Marinakis, president of Olympiacos FC, will address the conference which is part of Harvard University’s Weatherhead Initiative on Global History and is also being supported by Simmons College of Boston, MA.
Themes will include the role of soccer in peace-building and conflict resolution as well as the sport’s role in Africa.
The world’s biggest clubs will be called on to do much more to influence the public debate and contribute in much greater proportion to social responsibility as a key part of their contribution.
The argument is that as the clubs, and especially their players, have been empowered financially by their increased global followings, so they have a significantly increased social responsibility – it can’t be just about taking the money.
The social responsibility of clubs, say the conference organisers, “extends to ensuring that as many people as possible are able to play the game they love, without encountering discrimination or prejudice.”
The conference will call for ‘An International Day of the Right to Play’ to affirm the right to participate in sport as a universal and fundamental right.
Olympiacos have already been hands-on in supporting refugees with food and clothing aid provided to refugees at the Athens port of Piraeus. The club even enrolled its players to help distribute the aid. But more gaps need to be filled.
“The world’s leading soccer clubs are now among the most powerful and influential institutions in society. It is vital that they embrace their responsibility to their communities, and to the global community, by promoting concrete actions and initiatives that have the power to change the lives of everyday people,” said Marinakis.
“At a local level, Olympiacos has for some time been active in developing and implementing programmes to provide material assistance to displaced persons. It is time for the sport of soccer across the whole of Europe and beyond, to use its power to help those most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our midst.”
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