Non-league Blyth Spartans have been praised for promoting a charity on their shirts in a deal similar to Spanish giants Barcelona.
The chairman of Blyth Spartans, Tony Platten, has taken the unusual step of giving free shirt sponsorship to local charity the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.
As the club heads into the Third Round of the FA Cup – playing Birmingham City on Saturday – the players will show their support for the local charity, which gives grants to communities across the north east, in a move which echoes Barcelona’s famous shirt deal with UNICEF.
The community foundation is part of a philanthropic network of 48 foundations across the UK, which is chaired nationally by former chairman of the Football League David Sheepshanks.
Community foundations work with individuals and families, companies and charitable trusts to design bespoke grant making strategies that target particular issues or focus on certain geographical areas.
The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland is the largest of its kind in the UK with an endowment of more than £60m.
The shirt sponsorship deal was made after Tony and his wife Anne established the Platten Family Fund at the Community Foundation.
The fund aims to support young people into employment with grant-making of over £100,000 per year.
Projects supported so far include the Discovery School in Newcastle; Seaton Sluice Community Association and Blyth Arts and Community Association.
Tony said: “Anne and I are delighted to establish charitable funds at the Community Foundation.
“Blyth Spartans is a local club full of ambition.
“Whilst I wouldn’t want to make comparisons between our charitable sponsorship to that of Barcelona and UNICEF, I do believe that ambition is best shown by example.
“We’re delighted to offer free in-kind support to the Community Foundation which helps to make stronger communities through its grant making, including many local grassroots sports activities in Blyth and the local area.”
David Sheepshanks, chair of UK Community Foundations, added: “Everyone loves the romance of the FA Cup, David and Goliath tales of small clubs taking on much bigger competition and sometimes winning are the stuff of legend.
“What sets Blyth Spartans AFC apart is that despite their non-league status they have chosen not to grasp a big commercial pay day with a generous sponsor, and instead go for a thoroughly unselfish and public-spirited route to recognise how critical a local community is to its team’s success.
“By offering free sponsorship, through his own charitable family fund with his local Tyne and Wear Community Foundation, chairman Tony Platten is helping to raise awareness of the Community Foundation Movement and demonstrating how this kind of support can make such a profound effect on supporting local community causes for generations to come.
“Blyth Spartans have done brilliantly to reach the Third Round anyway, but we are all rooting for them to keep on going in this year’s FA Cup. Anything is possible. We wish them all the luck in the world.”