Playing the team game

As part of its sponsorship of the Stalybridge Celtic Foundation, Bohle became shirt sponsors for Vintage Celtic, an over 60s walking football team in the summer. In this month’s column Dave Broxton MD argues that business has a vital part to play in the wider community.

As a football fan you sometimes need a sense of humour. 40 years plus of watching West Brom – the current highs, still not consigning the lows along the way to the history books – has taught me a lot.

This includes the fact that football clubs play a really important part in a lot of people’s lives and communities as a whole. It’s not just about 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, notwithstanding Sky Sports scheduling, but the camaraderie and sense of community that goes with it.

Football clubs aren’t alone. There are thousands of community organisations up and down the country that provide a vital lifeline and companionship to their members.

Vintage Celtic, Stalybridge Celtic’s over-sixties walking football team, is a case in point. They are part of the Stalybridge Celtic Foundation, a charitable trust that provides community activities, projects and initiatives, working with clubs, schools and organisations in the interests of social welfare for recreation or other leisure time occupation of individuals who have need of such facilities by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disability, financial hardship or social circumstances with the object of improving their conditions of life.

As part of our partnership agreement we got to be sponsors of the team’s kits and I had the privilege to meet and spend time talking to the players.

Walking football was originally developed by Chesterfield FC Community Trust. Since its launch in 2011 it has enjoyed an explosion in popularity with more than 800 Walking Football Clubs now registered nationwide.

It promotes cardio vascular fitness among the 50+ group, the key difference from the standard beautiful game is that if a player runs, they immediately concede a free kick.

But what is also apparent from spending time with the team, is that it gives its members an important social lifeline.
Thanks to improved healthcare, we’re all living longer after retirement – that’s clearly a good thing but it can leave many people feeling a little isolated.

Walking football not only kept the squad from Vintage Celtic fit but also gave them a vital connection to each other and the club. They have an incredible cohesion, looking out for each other on the pitch (the team was crowned winners of the Cheshire Walking Football League Championship Division in Spring this year) but also in other aspects of their lives.

And that got me thinking about the parts we play as businesses in the local communities in which we work. As responsible employers, most of us make sure that we do the best to support our staff. I’m very proud of our culture here at Bohle and how we as a team look out for one another – something that extends to our commitment to our customers. We are not a company to hide behind ‘terms and conditions’ when the right thing needs doing.

We are also committed to extending this pledge to the wider community to be not just a good employer but a good neighbour. And we’re not alone.

I can draw up a long list of our customers who support their own local communities though charitable funds, sponsorships and staff volunteering, and it’s something they can all be very proud of. It says something about them, and the attitude and culture that pervades our whole industry – and that is to ‘give back’.

Often this support comes from small companies with modest budgets but the impact of even a few hundred pounds on community groups can be contextually huge.

I am sure that this will continue into the future. Running a business responsibly is not just about delivering shareholder value, it’s also about the contribution that business can make to society at large. It’s very easy to forget the part that we have to play as business in the cut and thrust of the day-to-day. In remembering it, we have a real opportunity to deliver social good, alongside profits.