Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Sociedad cooperate with LOI Clubs on social responsibility

20th November 2023
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As the League of Ireland season ends, it’s worth reflecting on another side of football club operations which is usually overshadowed by the drama on the pitch but which is helping clubs to become a more relevant entity in their local communities.

As the League of Ireland season ends, it’s worth reflecting on another side of football club operations which is usually overshadowed by the drama on the pitch but which is helping clubs to become a more relevant entity in their local communities.


Football and Social Responsibility (FSR) is a relatively new concept in the League of Ireland and it’s only in the past few of years that League of Ireland clubs are embracing this important area of business. Indeed, some clubs are doing remarkable work in areas such as social inclusion, education provision, health and well-being, supporting refugees and providing football participation opportunities for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Given the relative novelty of such programmes locally, LOI clubs are looking to tried and trusted club programmes internationally to gain inspiration.


Recently, several League of Ireland club FSR representatives had such an opportunity which was funded by the *European Union and facilitated via the Erasmus + Programme and provided them with a unique chance to visit the Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Sociedad Foundations to see the remarkable social programmes being delivered by these clubs in the Basque country.
 

Representatives from Bray Wanderers, Cork City, Drogheda United, Galway United, Sligo Rovers and Wexford FC spent a week in the Basque country where their hosts presented a variety of innovative social programmes. The programmes on display included walking football sessions for older people, football training for people with mental health and addiction issues as well as those with physical and intellectual disabilities and displayed the remarkable power of football to help address some of the most pressing societal problems.

Study-visit participants also had the opportunity to attend the Athletic Club “Thinking Football” Festival. This unique film festival which has been running for several years screens football themed films addressing a range of social topics and concludes with a panel discussion on the films’ social themes. There was a distinct Irish flavour to this year’s festival which LOI Club participants could relate to with Irish legend, Liam Brady appearing as a guest of honour of Athletic Club Bilbao and another film featuring Dundalk FC Legend, Jimmy Hastie also proving popular with local audiences.