Matters away from the pitch may not fill back pages in the way Chelsea’s trophy successes have during the last 10 years, but one of the greatest changes to the club during that time has been the importance placed on corporate social responsibility (CSR) work. The Chelsea Foundation, the charitable trust which now oversees it, is a total innovation here.
In short, Roman Abramovich soon made it clear after arriving that he wanted Chelsea to be a force for good away from the field of play, as well as a great football team. Our Here to Play, Here to Stay programme, which ensures we work year-round with the communities where the team visits on tour, is the very essence of that.
Two of the early initiatives were teaming up with a UK charity partner in 2005 and a global equivalent in 2007.
‘We started working with CLIC Sargent, a children’s cancer charity, in the UK and then Right to Play worldwide,’ says Simon Taylor, head of the Chelsea FC Foundation.
‘It was quite an innovative programme we started with our charities. What we didn’t want to do was have a short, sharp shock; we wanted a long-term strategic partnership.
‘We worked with CLIC Sargent for three years, we also worked with Help a Capital Child for four years and throughout that time with Right to Play as well.
‘It’s not just about signing a cheque and walking away, it’s about the players and the club buying into the ethos of the charity and working together long-term.’
While Right to Play, which uses the power of play to educate and empower children facing adversity, will remain as our global partner for at least the next three years, the Chelsea Foundation, launched in 2010 as an independent registered charity affiliated to and supported by the club, is now the umbrella for all our charity and CSR work taking place in the UK, as well as international projects.
The most recent Right to Play event was held at Stamford Bridge at the end of May and raised £175,000.
A lot of important work has been undertaken by the Foundation in order to combat discrimination of all kinds. The club has set up our own inclusion projects to ensure we are a proactive presence within the community on a daily basis.
Chelsea’s Building Bridges initiative was launched in 2010 to promote equality in our club, our stadium and throughout our communities, with staff wearing badges in support of the scheme and the logo visible in and around Stamford Bridge.
Thousands of young people participate in the club’s anti-discrimination education campaign every year, which is supported by Paul Canoville, the club’s first black player. In 2011, Frank Lampard appeared in a video alongside Tottenham’s Ledley King – campaigning against anti-semitism in the game.
Our Search for an Asian Star, which has taken place each year since 2009, has produced excellent results with seven of the youngsters now on the books of professional clubs. The scheme was launched to help young Asians get involved in football, with an annual coaching event at our Cobham training ground. This year’s competition was attended by more than 400 children.
‘It’s not about finding the next star for Chelsea, but about telling the Asian community that football is taking their concerns seriously,’ says Taylor.
‘It’s demonstrating to football clubs that there’s a talent base which is sometimes on their own doorstep and, for whatever reason, has been overlooked in the past. We’re breaking down barriers on both sides and that’s what a club like Chelsea and a sport like football can deliver.’
The scale of the work being carried out by the Foundation is increasing rapidly. There are roughly 500 projects in action each week, and 850,000 children come through our programmes on a yearly basis.
As well as London, the Foundation is now active in Kent, Essex, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset, while further afield we’ve worked in America, Australia, Africa, Asia and Russia.
On the pitch, the Chelsea Ladies, Chelsea Old Boys and the club’s disabled team all come under the Foundation, with positive steps being made by all. Perhaps the most exciting development has come with the Chelsea Ladies gaining entry to the FA Women’s Super League.
Interest in the side continues to grow, with many of the squad attending events and projects within the local community in order to spread the word and inspire the next generation of players.
Our Chelsea Community FC pan-disability teams enjoy professional coaching and play in FA-recognised leagues, cups and tournaments both domestically and abroad. We also run the Surrey Hub Club for Visual Impairment, Surrey’s Player Development Centre and the FA Cerebral Palsy Centre of Excellence for the south-east region.
The Chelsea Old Boys squad is made up of players who have represented the club over the years. They play a number of charity games throughout the year.
Elsewhere, our work within the local community continues to grow. The Foundation helps children who, for social or financial reasons, may be unable to enjoy a healthy start to the morning. Our Breakfast Club scheme, which sees more than 200 children from 10 schools within Hammersmith and Fulham receive a nutritional breakfast before lessons. Petr Cech is an ambassador for the programme.
The work carried out by the Chelsea Foundation aims to play a pivotal role in engaging youngsters, building self-esteem and giving confidence which will hopefully serve them well later in life.
The club has worked within the community since as far back as the early 1990s, when a handful of coaches would oversee Football in the Community coaching schools, aided by only a bag of balls and a few cones.
In the last 10 years we’ve come a very long way, and while the Foundation’s progression is testament to the work carried out on a daily basis by its dedicated staff, it would not have been achieved without the interest and drive in this area from the very top of the club.