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Sports Lead Flood Response in Australia

The tragic death and devastation caused by the floods that recently hit Queensland and Northern New South Wales really put sport into perspective.  At the time of writing, the death toll stands at 18 and there are 12 people missing.

The late Bill Shankly, legendary manager of the successful Liverpool Football Club of the 1960s and 1970s, once famously said that sport, and specifically soccer, is more important than life and death:

‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’

As I sit here writing this in Australia, I find it inappropriate to agree with such sentiments, although I have high respect for Shankly and firmly believe he was a fantastic manager.

However, what has been really heartwarming to see over the last few days is the way sport has responded to the crisis. Money for the flood victims has been raised by all sporting codes here – by players and clubs from sports at the professional level down to grass-roots.  Sport has stood up and shown that it is part of the fabric of society down under. Players and clubs have taken responsibility, have realized that they are role models and are giving back so generously.

Interestingly, in a sign of the times, awareness of the fund raising has been generated through social media and the web. Sports stars are increasingly savvy with such tools. In direct contrast to some of the well publicized gaffes on social media (just ask Ryan Babel @RyanBabel at Liverpool FC for his thoughts on using Twitter), sports stars have been using Twitter and the like for good causes.

From cycling, American legend Lance Armstrong organized a fundraising ride in aid of the flood victims. He did this by posting a message on his Twitter page “Hey #Adelaide – Twitter ride!! Let’s show our support for Queensland those affected by the floods. Saturday 10am Wigley Reserve, Glenelg!” Armstrong personally donated $50,000 (all figures quoted here are AUD) and then was joined by thousands for the fundraising ride.

From soccer, the Everton FC and Socceroos star Tim Cahill is offering The Tim Cahill Experience on eBay to raise funds for the flood victims – the winning bidder will receive two first class flights to England, two tickets to any Everton home match in Cahill’s private box and a few other things thrown in too.  At the time of writing the bid stands at a whopping $999,999 and with 3 days still to go Cahill’s initiative now looks certain to pass the million dollar mark. Football Federation Australia (FFA), the governing body, has also contributed $100,000 and will dedicate next week’s round of A-league matches to the flood appeal.

From cricket, the English batsman Kevin Pietersen is auctioning on eBay one of his Ashes shirts, his bat and 2 tickets to the One Day International in Perth for the flood victims. KP is using his Twitter page (@kevinpp24) and his homepage to spread the message.  Shane Watson, the Australian all-rounder, is today heading home to Ipswich – a town devastated so badly by the floods. Straight from his superb match winning exploits earlier this week at the MCG he will be handing out bats to kids who have lost everything in the floods. Cricket Australia has pledged that the fifth one-day international against England, which is scheduled to be held at Brisbane on Sunday, 30 January, will be used as a fundraiser. Meanwhile cricket legend Shane Warne, another fan of Twitter, is using his page @warne888 to organize a charity Twenty20 match.

Other charity efforts for the flood victims by sport (and this is by no means a comprehensive list) include:

  • Tennis – in the lead up to the Australian Open, stars such as Federer and Nadal played the “Rally for Relief” event at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne yesterday (Jan 16th) while Samantha Stosur pledged $100 for each ace she serves during her Australian tournaments and American Andy Roddick did the same at the recent Brisbane International.
  • V8 – Chairman Tony Cochrane has donated $50,000 to the appeal.
  • Rugby League – all NRL teams are contributing either cash or labor to the victims and the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team, which plays home matches at the iconic Suncorp stadium that was flooded, donated $25,000 and raised more through their players at a nationally televised telethon. The Gold Coast Titans have also arrived in the devastated city of Ipswich to help victims clean up.
  • Rugby – the Australian Rugby Union has donated $50,000 and the Queensland Reds will donate match payments.
  • AFL – the Australian rules football governing body, the AFL, and 18 teams have pledged $500,000 to the relief fund


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