Supporters React To Kano Foundation’s Statement
On Sunday, Mikael Lustig headed the ball onto his own goalpost at Fir Park in an attempt to defend a crossed ball. Having rebounded, it struck the back of goalkeeper Fraser Forster before bouncing into the net, giving Motherwell a two goal lead which they would maintain for three points. However, this was not to be the first own goal scored by Celtic on the weekend just gone.
For the sake of clarity, in case there are any of you who are unaware of the Kano Foundation or the work which the charity does, I shall summarise it briefly. Formed a few years ago, the Kano Foundation take groups of approximately forty children to Celtic Park for match days – free of charge. Every game sees a new contingent of kids in attendance, and these can range from football teams to children from a disadvantaged background. Any child is welcome, regardless of who they support, providing they are thirteen or under.
With this in mind, allow me to direct your attention to the following two quotes, from the Kano Foundation and their members on Twitter:
“Last night was a great night with so many new faces coming along to our event. It would have been better if Celtic offered us a first team player like they provide for many other supporters night but seems for a home grown charity that is currently unique to Celtic we are only entitled to a youth player for 30 minutes.”
Now, the above quotation refers to the charity’s end of season dinner which was held in the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park on Saturday night. I attended the event myself, as I did last year, and thoroughly enjoyed a night with fantastic people, great food, a few drinks and, most importantly, a charitable ethos. Tickets for the event cost £25 per person.
Having arranged the event, as usual, several months in advance, the charity’s trustees approached the Football Club in an attempt to arrange some form of Club representation at the dinner. This led to a discussion with a member of staff who offered a youth player’s time for thirty minutes, before citing the following reason as to why nobody more notable, such as a senior player (with the greatest respect to a fantastic youth system at the Club), would be available:
“Why should he (a player) give up his whole night to have dinner with you?”
For the sake of clarity once again, this is the question which a trustee of the Kano Foundation claims was posed by a member of Celtic’s public relations team.
Now, as Twitter, and the Celtic internet as a whole, continues to bubble away discussing this issue, I’d like to take this opportunity to lay out a couple of my own personal thoughts, as well as playing devil’s advocate to some degree in the pursuit of some balance.
The Kano Foundation are a group which each and every Celtic supporter, as well as every member of staff at the Football Club, should be tremendously proud of. I have always maintained that the charity embody the spirit of the Club in it’s earliest days, and the work they do should be praised and publicised to the highest degree. The men and women who run the Foundation are truly lovely people, and the children whom they work with would bring a smile to even the sternest of faces.
In my experience, critically, the members of the charity have never struck me as the sort to complain about things simply for the sake of complaining. To my knowledge, they’ve done all they can over the years to maintain a positive relationship with the Football Club, whom they obviously work with to some degree. They go about their business quietly with a steely determination integral to the continuing success of the charity.
Personally, when considering not only the charitable nature of the work they do with so many children, but the tens of thousands of pounds they have paid into the Football Club in recent years, I felt it was disappointing to see that no senior player or notable Club representative was in attendance on Saturday night. Having spoken to several other guests, I found that this feeling was largely mutual.
Yes, there was a match the next day, but no-one, and certainly not the members of the Foundation itself, would have expected a senior player to attend only hours before they were going to play in a top of the table clash at Fir Park. Yes, a small group of senior players were also on holiday, as they attempt to rest up somewhat for the Scottish Cup Final in May and, importantly, the early Champions League qualifiers of the coming season. And yes, the players are, of course, entitled to a Saturday night to themselves from time to time.
However, even with all of the above factors in mind, it does not excuse the fact that no injured player, or even, for example, a member of the board of directors, was asked to attend by the Football Club. This is not a criticism of any one individual, as several of the players, and the Club as a whole, have shown fantastic support for charitable causes in the past, but the point stands.
In late 2011, the Kano Foundation held their first annual Christmas party for the children at the Celtic Supporter’s Club on London Road. Having raised almost £1,000 at that stage in the season, the funds donated to ourselves at Maley’s Bhoys by the fans was used to pay for the majority of the event, which I was fortunate enough to attend. On that day, both Kris Commons and Hoopy the Huddlehound made appearances, and their presence was massively appreciated by adults and children alike. This season, in late 2012, I attended the second annual party, and whilst this time we made no donation (due to our Motor Neurone Disease Scotland fundraising this season), the event was a great success once again, with Paddy McCourt and the loveable Celtic mascot visiting the children.
On both occasions, the players and mascot were magnificent with their attitudes towards the supporters both young and old. The fact that they had children virtually hanging off of their limbs wanting autographs and pictures didn’t seem to faze them one bit, and they sat happily until everyone was content. Both of the players mentioned, as well as the mascot and the Club itself deserve praise for this. Above, a picture of Kris Commons at the event can be seen, whilst below is a picture of Hoopy and several ecstatic children.
However, contrast and compare that record with the following one. In three years of annual charity fundraising dinners at Parkhead, Celtic have only sent one representative on an official basis. This was the much maligned Efrain Juarez, who had returned from a season long loan at Real Zaragoza only days earlier, for around half an hour of the night last season.
Whilst there are, of course, far more adults than children at these dinners, they are a vital source of fundraising for the charity as one season closes and they prepare for another one at the end of summer, and although it may sound somewhat fickle, some people are certainly more likely to attend an event of such a nature if they know they’ll be able to meet a player or even get an autograph or a picture with one of the Bhoys.
Undoubtedly, this affair has been an own goal of notable proportions for the Football Club in terms of public relations. In a time where money is tight for many people (let alone for charities themselves), many will look at the weekend just gone with an understandable degree of cynicism.
On Saturday night, £25 would have allowed you to have a lovely dinner at Celtic Park, supporting a truly worthy cause in the process, but without any representatives from the Club in attendance, much to the disappointment of many supporters on the night.
However, after a poor defeat on the Sunday (which would have cost £25 to attend), £120 would have bought you a seat and dinner at the Club’s Annual Player of the Year Awards in the city, and in the process you would have been able to mingle with virtually the entire squad. Of course, nobody would have expected the whole squad at the Kano Foundation’s dinner, but the fact not one representative from the Club made an appearance was rather regrettable.
With this in mind, I’ll simply state that I believe this whole incident does not reflect well on the Football Club, especially as it often makes notable references to it’s charitable soul. The Kano Foundation do not make a fuss over nothing, and stand to gain nothing from raising the aforementioned issue. However, that does not mean it should be simply ignored. They are most certainly in the right on this occasion, and for that reason, they have the full support of myself.
After all, it was only after meetings with the Football Club and the kiosk operators (The Lindley Group) at Celtic Park earlier this season that we managed to secure an agreement for the Kano children to be able to purchase subsidised food on match days – they were asked to pay full price prior to this, despite the fact that many of them could never have afforded a ticket in the first place without the help of the charity.
Perhaps the next time I consider buying a programme or burger outside the ground, I’ll keep my few pounds in my pocket and donate them to the Kano Foundation instead.
Please note that a representative from The Kano Foundation will appear on the HomeBhoys show this evening to discuss this issue.