A philanthropic businessman has gained support from the likes of Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Gary Lineker in his battle to help young people living in poverty.
Ian Donaldson, who was born and raised in Stoke, is CEO of the Atlanta Group but suffered a difficult childhood on a 1980s miners’ estate before establishing himself as a promising young footballer only to then rise to the head of the group worth more than £1bn.
The 46-year-old was inspired by his tough upbringing to launch a new charitable initiative called Football For Change.
Football For Change is bringing together sports stars and business leaders to help young people get into education or find employment opportunities, as well as helping others from challenged communities who face barriers unlocking their full potential.
The charitable initiative, which is being chaired by Mr Donaldson, is needed now more than ever due to the amount of disadvantaged young people who have seen any chance of a better life further torn from their grasp due to the effects of Covid-19 with opportunities also decimated during the pandemic.
Liverpool FC star Trent Alexander-Arnold, Everton midfielder André Gomes and Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Conor Coady have already backed the plan alongside legends like Rangers boss Steven Gerrard and other current players such as Leeds United’s Jack Harrison, Everton’s Anthony Gordon and Bournemouth striker Dominic Solanke.
Mr Donaldson said: “Now, more than ever, the gap between the rich and the poor is too big.
“As business people, sports stars, TV and media – we must pass on the experiences we’ve had to show we’ve not all come from affluent backgrounds.
“After my mum and dad separated, I lived with my gran for all of my childhood up to sixth for and it was a tough upbringing.
“My grandad was a miner and we lived on a miners’ estate, which is basically a step down from a council estate. You were taught to work and study as hard as you could.
“But a lot of people come from poor backgrounds and it doesn’t mean they have to be restricted and it certainly doesn’t mean their dreams and aspirations can’t be achieved.
“The belief that if you’re born rich, you stay rich, and if you’re born poor, you stay poor – is a real myth that needs quashing, particularly in poorer areas.
“It’s time some of these people see role models from different backgrounds and understand where they’ve come from and got to.
“Also, sadly there’s too many young people that simply don’t have the tools to reach their full potential and end up choosing the wrong path, the consequences of which we know.
“And our aim with Football For Change is to level the playing field and help these young people overcome social and economic challenges they face to build better futures and I am incredibly proud to have helped it launch.”
Footballers and business leaders have put their name to Football For Change in a major effort to turn around some of the shocking situations our young people are facing while helping opportunities to arise.
The initiative will distribute grants to organisations in support of young people in some of the most deprived areas.
Football For Change will help those aiming to return to education, employment or training through a variety of fundraising activities.
The initiative is sponsored by the national Swinton Insurance and brings together business leaders and footballers in a collaborative effort to support young people in challenged communities who face barriers to achieving their full potential.