Robbie Earle – Stoke City and Port Vale are meeting the challenge for their city



There’s no football at the moment but perhaps our communities have never needed their clubs more.

That’s why Stoke City and Port Vale’s owners should be applauded for everything they are doing right now.

The Coates family had already guaranteed jobs at the club and at their bet365 business for five months. We also learned this week that Denise Coates is donating £10m to local hospitals through her Foundation charity.

What a wonderful gesture and another way the Coates family are showing their affinity for the city.

Meanwhile at the Vale, Carol and Kevin Shanahan are certainly doing their bit with the community hub that has been set up from the ground with hundreds of meals and food and care packages delivered to people who need them.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our football club owners either grew up or made their businesses in our city. Look, of course owners from out of the area can, and are, playing a huge part at other clubs, but it’s fair to say the Coates and the Shanahans are in touch with their clubs’ communities and know the challenges they face.

Football clubs are about far more than what happens at 3pm on a Saturday. Both Stoke and the Vale clearly understand that.

Liverpool are another club that I always think of as being in touch with their local community, which is why I am pleased to see they have changed their mind about putting their non-playing staff on furlough.

When you consider the millions going into clubs at the top of the game, it just didn’t sit right for them to be taking advantage of a government scheme that I doubt was designed with big Premier League clubs in mind.

So, I am pleased at least one club has changed their mind, even though Newcastle and Spurs for example, are using the scheme.

That’s not to pretend that football clubs don’t face major financial problems while the season is suspended. That’s certainly going to be the case lower down the divisions where several clubs have already placed their players and staff on furlough.

Crewe announced they were doing it this week and it seems as though Port Vale are considering it as well, pending talks with other clubs this week. I would guess these clubs are more like what the government had in mind when they announced the furlough scheme to help businesses and save jobs.

Football and footballers are always in the public eye so inevitably there will be interest in them. But I do think that footballers have been an easy target for some.

We know footballers earn big money at the top of the game, but that’s not the case when you get to the lower divisions. Besides, I think that most players at the top will be giving money to charities.

Most footballers have grown up in the same communities as their fans and understand a lot of the challenges they face. That’s why I think it’s a bit unfair when you see calls for players to do more. There seems to be more pressure on them than wealthy businessmen for example.

I would rather highlight the people who are going above and beyond to help in these difficult times. I’m sure Port Vale and Stoke City fans appreciate what the Shanahan and the Coates families are doing.

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