Giving charities a sporting chance

Posted on 19 Feb 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Charity Shield launch Brendon Gale Tim Taranto Tom Lynch Craig Kelly

The enormous power and reach of AFL football is being harnessed to help alleviate food insecurity among struggling Victorians.

In an AFL first, traditional rivals Richmond and Collingwood will face off against each other in the inaugural Charity Shield on February 27.

Proceeds from the pre-season game, which the AFL hopes will become an annual event, will go toward food relief charity Foodbank.

Foodbank Victoria CEO Dave McNamara said that families sacrificed food to keep a roof over their heads.

An estimated 628,000 people across Victoria are going days without eating – with nearly half of all households unable to afford the food that would keep them healthy.

“We feed 57,000 Victorians in need every single day,” said Mr McNamara.

“That’s more than a packed Marvel stadium. We see people from all walks of life and pretty much every one of them has a footy team they love.

“Thanks to the Tigers and the Pies and their amazing commitment to the Charity Shield, we can make sure there’ll be no one going without this footy season. Every dollar donated is two meals created. It’s that simple.”

The Charity Shield game is the latest example of Australia’s major sporting codes lending their enormous marketing power and reach to supercharge the work of charities.

Thousands of cricket fans who attend the annual New Year’s test at the Sydney Cricket Ground each year don pink to help raise funds for breast cancer charity the McGrath Foundation.

The event is held in honour of legendary Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath’s wife Jane, who died of breast cancer in 2008.

In 2024, cricket fans reached into their pockets to buy more than 322,00 virtual Pink Seats, raising $6.44 million toward funding 250 breast care nurses across the country.

Speaking in January, Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said he was proud to partner with the McGrath Foundation to “make a real difference to the lives of Australian families experiencing breast cancer".

Alex de Minaur at the announcement of his World Vision Australia ambassador role.

“Again this year we have seen the Pink Test bring together the cricket and broader community and we would like to thank everyone for supporting such a great cause.”

On the eve of this year’s Australian Open in January, World Vision Australia announced that Australia’s number one men’s singles player, Alex de Minaur, had agreed to be an ambassador for the charity.

De Minaur took time out from his training schedule to take part in a media event at the Open to publicise the announcement, which was also attended by World Vision CEO Daniel Wordsworth.

Rugby League club the South Sydney Rabbitohs recently triumphed over the St George Illawarra Dragons in the 41st Charity Shield, with proceeds from the pre-season match going towards Souths Cares, a charity for disadvantaged, marginalised and Indigenous youth.

“Charities are increasingly looking at partnerships with corporates and sporting clubs to try and extend their reach and increase their exposure among donors in new areas.”
Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Katherine Raskob.

Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Katherine Raskob said with the cost-of-living crisis contributing to a decline in the number of donors, charities were looking beyond their traditional fundraising base.

Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Katherine Raskob.

“Charities are increasingly looking at partnerships with corporates and sporting clubs to try and extend their reach and increase their exposure among donors in new areas,” said Ms Raskob.

An increasing desire to cater to employees and supporters wishing to be aligned with organisations that reflected their own values and support for charitable causes was also a factor.

“I think it’s terrific and I think we will see more of it,” said Ms Raskob.

Charity Shield launch Tim Taranto and Tom Lynch
Richmond players Tom Lynch and Tim Taranto roll up their sleeves and get to work for Foodbank at the Charity Shield launch.

The AFL Charity Shield match was the brainchild of Richmond CEO Brendan Gale, who approached current AFL premiers Collingwood to take part.

"We felt it was the right match – we're the closest neighbours in this fierce national competition," said Mr Gale, in reference to the side-by-side geographical location of two of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs.

"To shine light on disadvantage and raise money for such a worthy recipient as Foodbank and providing 50,000 meals a day was an idea worth exploring and developing."

Collingwood CEO Craig Kelly acknowledged the impact that two sporting clubs with such massive followings as the Pies and the Tigers could have by joining forces to help Victorians most in need.

Collingwood has more than 106,000 members – the highest number in the AFL – while Richmond is not far behind with 105,000.

"The match encourages the Magpie army and Richmond's fans to come together for something bigger than football,” he said.

The Charity Shield match between Richmond and Collingwood will take place at Ikon Park on Tuesday, February 27 at 6.40pm.

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