Let’s make it personal

Football leaves me cold. I’ve never ever felt moved to drive hundreds of miles to eat a hot pie, drink a few pints and then cheer my team on to victory. For me it takes tribalism just a little too far. It is, when all is said and done, just a game.

Yet I found my recent visit to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium strangely piquant. I arrived at the home of Swansea’s football club a few days before they were beaten on their home ground by Norwich City. My home is just outside Norwich and my now grown-up son an ardent fan.

The pitch was being prepared for the match and, in a strange way, I found myself developing a patriotic desire to see Norwich win. Of course I’d not actually see the match, because I was here to speak at a conference. But I felt a growing surge of enthusiasm for what was going to happen a day or two after my departure.

Which brings me neatly to my point; why is following football like social enterprise? Because you do both, ‘not for personal profit’. Football fans have passion, make personal sacrifices and often quite literally fly the flag for what they believe in.

Of course a social enterprise should be profitable and those who take the financial and career risks should be well rewarded. But equally important is that you don’t find those in charge awarding themselves massive dividend payments or bonuses. That in the eyes of many would be foul play and rightly so.

And transparency is vital to demonstrating that your social business is playing fair. That’s why registering a community interest company (CIC) is so useful; you have the freedom to be commercial, without the opportunity to be greedy. But even then that is really only necessary to provide peace of mind to others.

Robert Ashton

Robert Ashton is a social entrepreneur, best selling business author and increasingly a Big Society troubleshooter.

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