This feature summarises how football contributes to the achievement of development goals.


Why is football well-suited to developing people and communities?

Football truly is a global game. Football has, for a number of years, been used by projects looking to use sport in development. More recently, governing bodies and professional clubs have increased their presence within the sport and development sector and they often have charity foundations and community outreach programmes as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies.

The popularity of the sport means that it is possible to engage a large audience when working within sport for development. There is a minimum amount of equipment required; it is even possible to play with no official equipment.

What makes football more appealing is that different versions, for example 5-a-side, can be used depending on the space and number of participants. There are also NGOs that use Futsal, a scaled down version usually played indoors between two teams of five. This adaptability is a unique feature of football and helps to keep set-up costs for new projects to a minimum.

Integral to football’s role in development are the character traits that are learned from participation. This can include teamwork and cooperation, but there are also traits that are synonymous with all sports, like respect and discipline. Being part of a club can help to foster a sense of belonging which may be missing from a young person’s life if they have grown up in an unstable social situation.


To which groups is football best suited?

Football can be played by anyone. Well-designed sport and development projects that use football are inclusive of all abilities. Participation in women’s football is increasing as the popularity grows, and there is increasing appetite for mixed-gender programmes. This helps to foster equality.

There are also an increasing number of participants in walking football. This is aimed at men and women over the age of 50 and provides an opportunity to stay active but also to build social ties. Once again this shows both the adaptability of football and the diversity of the groups that can benefit from participation.

The world is currently home to more than 65 million refugees, the highest at any time since World War Two. This has highlighted the need for projects which improve their health and wellbeing while supporting their integration into their new communities. The cross-cultural appeal of football makes it the perfect tool do so and a wide range of projects are being implemented in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.


Which actors use football in their projects and how?

Corporate social responsibility is becoming more prominent in professional football, at both governing body and club level. This means that there is more money available and greater opportunities for partnerships. Many NGOs have started as small projects and grown to extend their reach on an international scale.



European football’s governing body is involved in strategic partnerships which aim to benefit society through football. Its Football Social Responsibility Programme focuses mainly on antidiscrimination and diversity, social integration and reconciliation, active and healthy lifestyles, implementing football for everyone and contributing to environmental sustainability. In addition, the UEFA Foundation for Children was established in 2015. It uses sport to support humanitarian projects linked to children’s rights in areas such as health, education and integration.


Manchester United Foundation

The Manchester United Foundation (MUF) uses football to engage and inspire young people to build a better life for themselves and unite the communities in which they live. Staff deliver football coaching, educational programmes and personal development. Projects assist young people with employment skills, improve knowledge of healthy living and encourage young people to volunteer.


Slum Soccer

Slum Soccer works with marginalised people in India. It aims to provide long term solutions to combat rife homelessness and improve living standards. Homeless and slum communities host a variety of issues. Areas where Slum Soccer works have high levels of sexual and domestic abuse, unemployment, alcoholism, drug use, malnutrition, mental health issues and a cycle of disengagement from education. The organisation believes that football inherently offers transferrable skills for social development: through team building, acceptance and discipline.


Homeless World Cup

The Homeless World Cup (HWC) is a social movement which uses football to inspire homeless people to change their own lives. HWC operates through a network of more than 70 national partners to support football programmes and social enterprise development. They provide a focus for—and celebration of—this year-round activity by organising an annual football tournament for national teams of homeless men and women.


Football for Peace

Football for Peace (FFP) is creates dialogue and unites people. Its contribution to peace is to influence diplomatic, social and political relations by creating neutral environments through the organisation’s 5-step peace process, to inspire people to people advocacy. FFP works with central governments, football federations, local councils and schools to help bring about peace and act as impartial negotiators in areas where dialogue has broken down. The organisation is built around a carefully considered plan of action applied to every discussion it engages in.