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HEROES UNITED; How one Scot kick-started pounds 3m charity SO.. YOU WANT A JOB IN SPORTS CHARITY.


CELTIC fan Craig Paterson has united football clubs all over the country to help raise pounds 3million for charity.

From the Old Firm to Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, clubs have bought into Football Aid.

It gives fans of all ages, shapes and sizes the chance to run out on to their team's pitch and play a game with club legends.

And it has done wonders for the reputation of football, which has been tarnished by accusations of greed.

Shrewd businessman Craig ran his Field of Dreams concept past Rangers chairman David Murray - now all the SPL clubs plus 55 teams in England, including every Premiership side, are signed up.

Craig, 51, chaiman of Football Aid, founded the charity to raise cash for diabetes sufferers after his son Jonathan, 19, was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes at the age of 12.

He said: "I went to see David Murray at Rangers and I explained how musicians have Live Aid and comedians have Comic Relief but there was nothing for football.

"Football Aid represented a chance for all the clubs to come together for a good cause. He loved the idea.

"The SFA agreed to provide referees and I spent the next year getting all the Premiership clubs on board."

Craig was instrumental in setting up recruitment firm The Melville Craig Group and built it up to have a turnover of more than pounds 50million.

Since 2001 he has used his business acumen to create and develop Football Aid UK - website

Fans are invited to start bidding for a place in the teams in January, with 20 places in each squad up for grabs.

Some 50 celebrities have signed up to captain the teams including Lisbon Lion Billy McNeill and Rangers legend Ally McCoist.

So far 350 Football Aid games have been played involving 9000 players.

From Ibrox and Celtic Park to Old Trafford and Anfield the games are played at top grounds throughout the country and in Europe.

Craig, who had worked as a social worker and bill poster before setting up Melville Craig in the 1980s, said: "At Manchester United we have had senior Government officials playing against a team of plumbers.

"We have had players of all ages from 18 to 64. We have had players fly in from overseas just to be seen in their team colours.

"The clubs got on board because it gives them a chance to show how many good causes they support.

"We support their charities with the funds we raise as well.

"We have raised pounds 3million and there are now Scotland matches in which you can play for your country, lining up with players like Gary McAllister and Paul Lambert.

"As a Celtic fan, my dream was to run out at Celtic Park and I would happily have written a cheque out to charity for the chance to play alongside heroes like Danny McGrain and Murdo MacLeod. Football Aid lets you live the dream."

One of the charity's most avid supporters is England ex-manager Sir Bobby Robson, who said: "The game's support of Football Aid enables us to generate significant funds for charity.

"I believe everyone in football can be proud of what we have achieved."


Supporters: Football Aid is backed by, top, left to right, Gordon Strachan (Celtic), Pat Nevin (TV pundit), Willie Miller (Aberdeen), Gary McAllister (Leeds), Rafael Benitez (Liverpool): bottom, Arsene Wenger (Arsenal), Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Ally McCoist (Rangers), Danny McGrain (Celtic); Founder: Craig; Success: Craig Paterson
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 23, 2008
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