Former Member, USA Strategic Advisory Committee-Right To Play- July 1, 2007

(note- gary is no longer an advisor to right to play) 

Hello Friends,

I am sending this to many of you whom I’ve known personally or have worked with me or been associated in some way with the organizations I run both on and off the field for many years. Some of you have been indirectly introduced to me by mutual acquaintances.  

I would appreciate if you could take a few minutes out of your busy schedules to read about this very important project I have recently embarked upon. A few months ago I was invited by a prominent member of our local and global business community to meet with Olympic great Johann Olav Koss, President and CEO of Right To Play, a large and prominent global humanitarian organization focused on developing, running and advocating sport/play programs for children in refugee camps and areas of conflict around the world. The aim of Right To Play is to use sport and play as a medium for development, health and peace in the lives of children in the most disadvantaged areas.                  

I was deeply moved and impressed with Johann’s commitment to this extremely worthy cause and decided that I must make a bigger effort to utilize my own personal resources and the resources of my friends, family and acquaintances at a local and international level to create more awareness and raise financial support for Right To Play.  In 2003 while completing an MBA in Football Industries at the University of Liverpool, England, I read a interesting article in ‘SportsBusiness’ magazine, describing ‘Olympicaid’, which has since become Right To Play. I was inspired by ‘Olympicaid’ and in fact wanted to work with the organisation after I completed the course but it was sheer coincidence which led me to meet directly with Johann Koss, now head of Right To Play.

After meeting with Johann, I created a fundraising drive for my small local soccer club and raised $15,000 in only 1 month after we solicited our members and friends in our local community. You can see our club’s  Right To Play homepage by clicking HERE. The online donations are made directly to Right To Play with supporter’s receiving an automatically generated pdf receipt. Sponsors who make offline donations receive a hardcopy receipt within a week of their donation. The only labor intensive activity I am responsible for is forwarding the check donations made out directly to Right To Play to the head office as well as managing/editing/monitoring our homepage which requires very little time and effort.

I was inspired by the support which has prompted me to encourage other organizations to do the same. With a small amount of effort other organizations can make such a huge difference. Union FC is the very first soccer club in the United States to embark on this worthy project, which we are extremely proud of. I thought “why can’t others do the same?” As a the leader of our community soccer organization, I felt it was my responsibility to share the positive benefits of the sport we love so much to children in our local community, as well as children in need throughout the world. Due to poverty and violence, over 700 million children globally do not know what it means to play. In our efforts to create healthier, happier children and safer communities through sport and play, our local soccer club Union F.C accepted the challenge to raise funds for Right to Play.  

There are thousands of clubs throughout the Unites States, many larger than my own. According to some sources there are approx. 12-14 million players in the United States and many more fans. If only 2% of approx 3,500 clubs of similar size in the USA to our own were to support Right To Play to the extent that our club has, this would generate approximately $1,050,000 per year, which is a conservative estimate because our annual goal is $50,000, bringing the estimated annual total to $3.5 million. So what does it take to encourage and inspire others to do the same as we have done?

In June, 2006 I was invited by Right To Play to become a member of a 7-person Strategic Advisory Committee in the U.S.A. I accepted this non-paid position because it is something which I’m deeply committed to and with your assistance and guidance can help make a difference to children in need. Through soccer/football, business and living in Silicon Valley as well as my associates and acquaintances through the MBA Football Industries graduate course I have had the privilege of meeting many good hearted, successful and dynamic people. 

Our committee is responsible for developing a grassroots movement, launching a membership organization, athlete ambassador recruitment, international volunteer recruitment, developing relationships with academic institutions and strategies for fundraising in the short and long-term as well as identifying prospective donors and partners including foundations, individual members, corporations and board members. We are also responsible for identifying potential non-profit, government and for-profit partners to help us achieve our strategic objectives as well as developing media connections.

The reason for sharing my mission and responsibility with you is because you may fall into one of the following categories:

  • Current or Former Athlete of International/National/Regional acclaim (esp. Soccer/Football)
  • Coach/Manager of National/International acclaim.
  • Sports League, Federation, Association or Club Chairman President, CEO, Board Member or administrative (esp. Football/Soccer)
  • Global, National or Regional Corporate sponsor or marketing partners and merchandising firms
  • Prospective donor at an individual level
  • Owner, Chairman, President, Board Member & Executive of Global Multinationals, Private businesses, Foundations & Venture Capitalists, Merchant Bankers & business leaders
  •  Members of International, National or Local Media (print, TV, internet) including reporters, journalists, commentators, photographers, editors and publishers as well as Media persons for Federations, Clubs, Leagues
  • Sports (Soccer/Football) agents representing athletes and coaches in ALL countries
  •  Film/Television/Music personalities including Producer’s, Directors and Actors
  • Public Relations and Advertising firms
  • Professors and teachers at Academic Institutions including Athletic Directors and Heads of Sport
  • Politicians including Heads of State, Governor, Senator, Ambassador, Mayor.

Right To Play  has a permanent presence in the world of children’s sport and play. In addition to its child development programs, Right To Play is established as a force in international advocacy on behalf of every child’s right to play and is actively involved in research and policy development in this area. Our vision is to engage leaders on all sides of sport, business and media to ensure every child’s right to play.

Right To Play is an athlete-driven international organization that uses sport and play as a tool for the development of children and youth in imperiled areas of the world. Right To Play is committed to improving the lives of children in 23 countries and to strengthening their communities by translating the best practices of sport and play into opportunities to promote development, health and peace. Right To Play works closely with UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and recently held events in Thailand , Uganda and Azerbaijan with family friend and Union F.C staff coach/USA women's national team player Lorrie Fair.

Right To Play programs foster the healthy physical, social and emotional development of children and build safer and stronger communities. The organization has witnessed the positive impact sport has on refugee children, former child combatants, children with a disability, and young people at risk or orphaned by HIV AIDS or war.

The following are just a few of the hundreds of world famous athletes who have associated themselves with Right To Play.  Liverpool F.C’s John Arne Riise, Roger Milla, Ronaldo and U.S.A. soccer player Abby Wambach, Chinese national team goalkeeper Gao Hong and Freddie Kanoute. Speed Skater Joey Cheeks, Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, Lance Armstrong (Cycling), George Foreman (Boxing) Dan Jansen (Speed Skating), Michael Johnson, Marion Jones, Steve Young (NFL quarterback) and Picaboo Street. Manchester United coach Carlos Queiroz is has also supported Right To Play’s efforts in Mozambique . Read about his involvement here

International Sport Partners

International Implementation Partners

Private Funders and Supporters

The diversity of these supporters reflects the global reach of Sport for Development, providing another example of how companies and individuals can positively effect change for children around the world. 

If you know of anyone who would be interested in Right To Play or you know of an individual or organization who may be a suitable or a potential source of funding, please do not hesitate to contact me.  If you would like to speak with me about this in person or by phone, please contact me at your convenience.

With Kindest Regards
Gary Ireland

July, 2007 


On July 14th, English Premier League giants Chelsea FC played a post-season exhibition match against Mexican team Club America at Stanford Stadium in front of 47,000 spectators, resulting in a 2-1 victory for Chelsea FC.

I was very pleased to have been involved in the match promotion for the event owners and assisting with VIP logistics for personal invitees and guests of Right to Play. We also provided a data collection service for the event owners as well as pre-game activities on behalf of Right to Play. I was also very pleased to involve Union FC staff, players and family members in various activities surrounding the game. For example, we accepted the task of enlisting 100 volunteers from across the Bay Area for data collection (we had the volunteers distribute a ‘chance to win a trip to England’ post card) and Carine and Greg, both of whom sadly missed most of the game (running around the stadium in a golf buggy!) due to this project, had 100 volunteers distribute 40,000 postcards at half time, each receiving 3 free tickets and a t-shirt for their volunteer efforts… (thanks to Arthur Raefsky, Sophia Raefsky and Lisa Bernard for helping here too)

Many of our World Soccer and Union FC friends attended the match. Myself and several other of my associates were instrumental in promoting the game to the Bay Area soccer community and several corporations in Silicon Valley .  Many VIP’s in soccer, sport and business attended as guests of Right to Play and as personal guests of mine. American Football legend Steve Young and his wife were our guests and enjoyed his first ever soccer game. Steve recently toured Ghana as a Right to Play athlete ambassador so it was great to see him participate in another Right to Play related activity. Other guests included sports franchise owners, hi-tech executives, CEO's of corporations and media organizations, US Club Soccer and Norcal officials as well as UK Director and head of Global Football for Right to Play, Chris Robinson who we have enjoyed working with both in Palo Alto and Los Angeles.

The entire Chelsea FC team (John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Joe Cole, Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko, Arjen Robben and Peter Cech) were in Palo Alto along with coach Jose Mourinho. The team flew up from Los Angeles arriving at midday before departing at 10 p.m from San Jose airport the same day and back to their Beverly Hills accommodations.

As some of you already know, I am a volunteer consultant/strategic advisor for global sports charity Right to Play. Carine has also donated much time to helping this fantastic organization which is the official global charity partner for Chelsea FC, the MLS and other organizations. Zidane is now also an athlete ambassador for Right to Play. Moments prior to the Chelsea FC vs. America game I arranged a 5 minute Right to Play video to be displayed on the big screen at Stanford, as well as large Right to Play/Red Ball banner (the first and only one made in the world!) which I originally had intended to cover the entire center circle. However due to time and financial constraints we were only able to display a smaller 9ft radius banner. Nevertheless the banner was prominent and attractive enough and was carried onto the field behind both teams by members of Union FC club players, Nehal Ismael, Nicola White, Wesley Woo, Kat and Ryan McCauliffe and Marie Burhenne who positioned the banner behind both teams after they proudly walked the Right To Play banner onto the field, which, I need to add is another ‘first’. This is the first time the Right to Play banner was walked onto any soccer field in the world which will become increasingly more popular as Right to Play forms more alliances with sporting teams and leagues.

Just before kick off we enlisted the help of several Union F.C parents who were waiting next to the Chelsea FC dressing room for their children to return from the field and promptly put them to work placing the RTP “Red Ball’s” into the hands of each player from both teams. So when you saw the players kicking the balls into the stands, you know how they got them in their hands!

A special thanks to Carine and Greg who did tremendous work before, during and after the game and also to Chris who was issued a media pass to take photos for me for Right to Play. Their work was greatly appreciated.

The following day in Los Angeles, we conducted a Right to Play Coaching demonstration run by myself and Head of Right to Play UK and Global Soccer, Chris Robinson, Carine Ireland and Lorrie Fair at UCLA next to the Chelsea F.C training field. I had arranged for sixty elite youth players from the Los Angeles area (FC Barcelona club) to participate in the clinic-20 being coached by us in a special Right To Play session and the other 40 being coached by Chelsea FC youth coaches as a backdrop to the proceedings. Chelsea F.C players Michael Essien, Kalou and Diarra, all Right To Play Athlete Ambassadors made appearances for the players and afterwards coach Jose Mourinho allowed the entire group to watch a closed training session with the 20 of our Right to Play players being allowed a private autograph session with every Chelsea FC player, one of whom was given a wrist band by Didier Drogba. We also had a guest appearance from Los Angeles Galaxy assistant coach (and occasional Union FC guest coach for some of you familiar with his name), Tim Hanley who spoke with us about Right to Play. 

On July 17th, we arranged for all Chelsea FC and Korean team Suwong carry Right to Play “Red Balls” on the field and kick them into the stands as they did at Stanford a few days earlier. The Adidas/ Right to Play tent had excellent placement inside the stadium also.

On July 18th, Carine, Chris Robinson, Christopher Sullivan and I went to the Chelsea FC team party as guests of Chelsea FC where we met up with some old friends and acquaintances and made new acquaintances. The view was spectacular high in the hills overlooking Los Angeles and the guest, including players and staff all had a few hours to relax from their daily regimen of training and games and enjoy the views.  Far from children or people in need, it was important for us to remember how fortunate we were to be in good health with no apparent care in the world. It was back on the ground and to reality for the next few days seeking new Right to Play partners and sponsors after seeing the Hollywood set ‘Paint the Town Blue”.

On July 19th at the MLS All Star game in Denver , Right to Play announced its affiliation with the MLS receiving a mention at the Commissioner's Press Conference. Right to Play announced the names of 20 MLS athlete ambassadors before the game. Spectators were handed an Adidas/ Right to Play brochure upon entering the stadium along with the MLS/ Right to Play postcard. Before the game, the Adidas/ Right to Play tent had excellent placement inside the stadium. The ceremony featured an in-stadium introduction and explanation of Right To Play, airing of Right to Play PSA on the stadium screen with logo, and all Celtic and MLS players walking onto the field with Right to Play ‘Red Balls’ and holding them during the national anthems. During halftime Right to Play received another PSA on stadium screens.  

On July 21st Right To Play held a function in Manhattan Beach where we hosted Right to Play founder and CEO Johann Koss, Global Football Director Chris Robinson, Adidas sponsor reps and other Right To Play staff. A few actors and producers as well as USA National team player Abby Wambach and friend USA national team player Megan Rapinoe also attended the function with Carine , UK Right to Play director and myself before heading to the Home Depot Center for the Chelsea FC vs. Los Angeles Galaxy game for David Beckham’s eagerly awaited debut. Our Right To Play group was distributed around the full stadium most eagerly awaiting the arrival of Beckham who managed to ineffectively hobble around the field for the final 15 minutes with a swollen ankle. Carine, Chris Robinson and I sat with Abby Wambach for the game and it was fun to exchange notes. Abby really showed her soccer passion and enthusiasm while most of the entire USA women’s national team cheered on from a few rows below. Right to Play and Adidas arranged for the Chelsea FC players to kick their Right to Play ‘Red Balls’ into the stadium just before kick off as well as having excellent presence at the Right to Play exhibitor booth on the concourse. 

After a fortuitous meeting which I arranged for Right to Play’s Johann Koss and Chris Robison with an extremely supportive Major League Soccer Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidas on the stadium concourse area, we unfortunately had to skip the VIP area where several people had asked to meet us.  Carine, Chris and I had rush Johann to Los Angeles airport for his flight to Thailand for yet another journey for this extraordinary person who had recently completed his participation in the ‘Gigathlon’ helping raise $125,000 for Right to Play.

It was the end of the tour for Chelsea FC who headed directly to the airport for London and for Carine and I too. We also said our goodbyes to friend Christopher Sullivan who left for Chicago to cover Blanco’s debut in the Chicago vs. Celtic match (1-1) on Fox Soccer Channel, not before we had a kick around at Christopher’s hotel with a Right to Play “Red Ball”……

In all we enjoyed helping Right to Play meet new friends and supporters and were happy to have played a small role in promoting Right to Play to American soccer goers. Perhaps the biggest enjoyment was seeing our Union FC players take the field with the Chelsea FC and Club America players and to also help raise funding for Right to Play.

We have some major Right to Play activities coming our way which may prove to be even more exciting than the Chelsea FC tour …watch this space!  If you have any ideas or suggestions on how we can help raise funds and awareness for Right to Play, please contact me at your convenience!

Best Wishes
Gary Ireland
President Union FC
Advisor- Consultant Right to Play
mobile: 650 387 4128  



    •    ZIDANE SIGNS FOR RIGHT TO PLAY with Johann Koss