Kit gesture is social enterprise not charity

vile.JPGThere are few business climates more profit driven today than inside a Premier League football club. Every aspect of the game is a commodity for sale to either the man on the street, prawnie corporate daytrippers or big brands targeting the circus’ global audience.Where better then to see social enterprise in full swing?Aston Villa have grabbed headlines this week for announcing next season’s team shirt will be emblazoned with the logo of local children’s hospice trust Acorns, free of charge.Given that a betting company paid in excess of £1.5m to endorse last season’s kit and new bidders were expected to pay approaching £2m, the decision’s been heralded as a refreshingly generous act of charity by a fooball club for once giving something back to its local community.This is, in part, true. Acorns have expressed delight at the extra donations they’ll expect to receive from coverage they could have only dreamed about and supporters will undoubtedly wear their shirts with extra pride.But despite the club’s US owner Randy Lerner having a history of philanthropic acts (he most recently gave £5m to The National Portrait Gallery), this certainly isn’t pure charity.Last season Villa sold 41,000 replica shirts, 24 hours after announcing the Acorns partnership they anticipate they’ll flog more than 100,000. Retailing at £39.99 and let’s guess a profit of £30 on each unit, that just about covers the deficit alone without accounting for the impact the great PR will have on signing up new Villa fans (and their wallets) from across the globe.Villa aren't traditionally a Liverpool or Manchester United with established overseas' fanbases but since acquiring the club last year Lerner's set a clear agenda for raising its profile and, of course, the stock of his investment in a public company he previously had no affiliation to. Tom Hanks' flaunting of a Villa scarf at a recent premiere suggests it's working!Not that there's anything wrong with any of this, surely it's just smart business with a nice dose of social enteprise? After all, who's losing?

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