A Different Kind of Sports Philanthropy: European Soccer Clubs Help Refugees

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Refugees

September 9, 2015; New York Times

It probably won’t happen at Gillette Stadium for the opening of the NFL regular season when the Patriots take on the Steelers, nor during the games this weekend. In Europe, there is a different kind of sports philanthropy going on. Soccer teams from Germany and some other nations are providing assistance to the Middle Eastern and North African refugees who are coming into the country.

  • F.C. St. Pauli, a soccer team known for a “punk ethos,” distributed 1,000 free tickets to refugees for a game this week against Borussia Dortmund. Many of the refugees who will be attending the St. Pauli game live in camps around the city of Hamburg. The team also raised money to finance a search-and-rescue boat to help in the Mediterranean.
  • Bayern Munich has offered $1.1 million for a soccer training camp for refugees, with similar pledges from Real Madrid and Paris St.-Germain.
  • The Portuguese club Porto asked teams in the Union of European Football Associations to donate match day ticket sales for humanitarian programs for refugees.
  • Italy’s Roma team said it would put $700,000 into refugee programs. Roma’s owner, Jim Pallotta, is encouraging other clubs to raise money for refugee assistance programs.

What counts a great deal for the European soccer teams is that many have some players from the countries that are generating the refugee influx and others who are themselves former refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo, or Serbia.

It would be quite a statement for U.S. football teams to do something similar. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is a well-known philanthropist, and maybe he could be convinced. For some of the other NFL owners, it is hard to imagine.—Rick Cohen