Footballer Quinn makes stand for charity
For most top-flight footballers a testimonial brings a chance to celebrate their career – and lodge a vast sum of tax-free cash in their well-stuffed bank accounts.
Despite the extraordinary wages available to even ordinary Premiership players, many believe that a number of years with a club gives them the right to cash in on the loyalty of fans with a testimonial game.
But last night one man made a stand against the greed of the national game and brought hope to the millions who despair at the antics of modern players.
Sunderland striker Niall Quinn gave the estimated £1million raised at his testimonial to children’s charities.
His donation brought praise from beyond the money-obsessed world of football.
Tony Blair said: ‘Niall Quinn is a credit to sport. His selfless decision to donate so generously is inspirational.
‘I am sure his testimonial was a fitting tribute to both his footballing talent and his sportsmanship.’
Last night’s match between Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland – for whom the 6ft 5in striker is the all-time top scorer – drew well over 30,000 to the
Stadium of Light with even Quinn’s friends and family paying to get in.
Quinn, 35, said the inspiration for his gift came from a visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, when he was a teenage Arsenal player.
‘I asked the nurse some simple question and she said she was just hoping all the kids would live to see Christmas Day,’ he said. ‘It knocked me down and it’s had a lasting effect.
‘After I made my debut for Ireland, one of the players had a testimonial and I thought then that if I ever made enough appearances then a game like this would give me an excellent chance to put something back.
‘I really don’t think one game is enough to balance things up – the only way would be to have 100 games because football has given me a very privileged life.
‘It has given me fulfilment – not just financially, but through the fact my boyhood dream is still going on at 35.’
Around £500,000 of the money will go to building a new children’s outpatient department at the Sunderland Royal Hospital while a similar sum is for a children’s wing at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Ireland.
A third donation will be made to Goal, a project for street children in Calcutta.
A Sunderland Royal Hospital spokesman said: ‘What he is doing is brilliant. The amount of money he is able to raise on one night is mindboggling.’
It is the sums raised by testimonials for players already fantastically rewarded by their clubs that has caused disquiet.
Such games are a throwback to when footballers earned little more than the average working man’s wage and were a chance for fans to reward long-serving players with a tax- free sum towards retirement.
But times change. A testimonial year for Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs prompted protests last year when it emerged he would receive around £2million from it – in addition to his £2.5million annual wage.
Guest of honour at last night’s match was 13-year-old cancer sufferer Gary Harvey.
The Sunderland fan had written to Quinn and was overwhelmed when his hero visited him at home.
Gary said: ‘He asked me, “Do you think you will be well enough for May 14?” I said probably and he said, “You get better and you can come as my guest of honour”. I just broke down crying.’