Much has been made of the contrast between the values and heroics of our Olympians and Paralympians, and the often not so great values and not so great values of our multi-millionaire professional footballers.
Well today provides an opportunity for football, football clubs and football stars to show that the caricature is misplaced.
I know lots of them already give money to good causes, but this is a good cause that ought to touch them more than most, because it concerns one of their own.
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has leukaemia. He is a very popular player, not least with the staff at the club. The Villa masseurs Alex Butler and Andrew Smith had the idea of doing a bike ride to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, the charity Petrov now supports, and of which I am chairman of fundraising and (lapsed cos I hate swimming) captain of the triathlon team.
So PEDAL FOR PETROV was born. The idea is a 400 mile bike ride from Petrov’s last club, Celtic, to his current one, Villa. It starts at Celtic Park today, and I hope lots of media and supporters turn out to cheer them on as Celtic manager Neil Lennon sets them on their way with a cheque from the club. It will then go via Newcastle, Newton St Boswells, Halton, Liverpool and Manchester, before riding from there to Villa Park for a fundraising dinner next Sunday. That is the leg (the toughest ahem) that I will be doing, and Alex Ferguson has already committed to ensuring Manchester United will be represented as we set off. So Come on City!!! (I never thought I would hear myself say that).
Villa have put out an appeal to all top clubs to support the ride, and if I am being absolutely frank – what else would you expect? – the response so far has been disappointing. So now that it is underway, let’s see clubs, players, managers and fans get behind this ride to raise funds to ensure we find better treatments and one day a cure for this horrible disease. The target is £250,000 – which even in these tough times I think is conservative given what we are talking about – and we are well short of that as the start line nears.
So here is what we are looking for. To the media in Glasgow, Newton St Boswells, Newcastle, Halton, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, and all points between — look out for the lads coming through, accompanied all the way by former England player and leukaemia survivor and now tireless fundraiser Geoff Thomas.
To members of the public en route – to give what they can, and to check out the charity website to see how they can support in other ways.
Above all to football clubs, players, managers and staff, to get onto this link and give us a small fraction of your wages. I know you get asked all the time, I really do understand that, but this one really should touch you.
And to businesses, and all those doing so well from the booming sports industry, we are on the lookout for money can’t buy experiences for the dinner at Villa on Sunday. Villa are also still selling tables.
Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research is a wonderful charity that devotes every penny to doing what it says on the tin. We are obviously sad that Stilyan Petrov became ill, but grateful to him that he has become such a strong supporter, and grateful to Alex and Andrew for their wonderful idea.
It gives you hopefully all the info you need but if anyone has anything specific they want to raise with me, they can email via the public speaking box on this site.
Begging letter over. Off to the Paralympics now. Swimming this morning, athletics later. And to all those journalists asking if I will come on to fill the blahspace talking about reshuffles before David Cameron gets round to it, the answer is No. Though here is a reminder of one thing he should do.