Baillie Gifford’s Anderson donates millions to football

James Anderson of Baillie Gifford. Picture by Matt Marcus.

Baillie Gifford fund manager James Anderson has donated an initial £3.1 million to the SPFL Trust charity to help Scottish football and its communities recover from the coronavirus crisis.

It is the single biggest personal donation in Scottish football history.

Anderson is the co-manager of the £10 billion Scottish Mortgage fund, which is the UK’s largest investment trust.

The fund is a major shareholder in prominent global companies including Tesla, Amazon, Tencent, Netflix and Alibaba. 

A separate fund, The Anderson Fund, will also be established — and the SPFL said Anderson has confirmed his intention to provide further additional funding “both directly, and possibly via others in his network.”

All 42 SPFL clubs will be eligible to receive a £50,000 grant during the Covid-19 crisis provided they give evidence of community benefit.

“A Covid-19 crisis fund is to be launched by the SPFL Trust, to which all 42 SPFL clubs will be eligible to apply to, for a fixed grant of £50,000,” said the SPFL Trust.

“Clubs will be able to use the grant, provided they are able to demonstrate support for the wider community in which they are based.

“This will be a condition of the grant.

“This personal donation has been made without qualification or pre-condition relating to future structure or governance at the SPFL.

“We will also now accelerate plans for a major new project called Scottish Football United.

“It had previously hoped to secure traditional grant funding in 2021 for a 2022 launch, but will now immediately begin putting plans in place.

“Further details will follow, but in principle, Scottish Football United will bring together clubs, leagues, governing bodies, with national and local public agencies to create a focal point for future crisis planning and support.

“This will enable Scottish football to react and support communities quickly, and at scale.

“A new restricted fund will be set up, The Anderson Fund, which will be used to fund new projects, which demonstrate a positive impact on health, attainment, or inclusion as well as any general related support during the Covid-19 crisis. Details of this will also follow.”

Anderson, who is acting in a personal capacity, said: “Football is at the heart of communities across Scotland, and there are not many societal organisations that bring people together nowadays, to catch them in a net when they fall. 

“When Covid-19 struck, I realised what a significant loss it would be for towns across the country if their local SPFL club’s very survival was threatened.

“This isn’t just about the passion on the pitch, which is why we love the game, but about the responsibility our clubs take in communities across Scotland. 

“I’ve seen first-hand over the last few years what a difference clubs can make to people’s lives, and so I am very pleased to have been able to offer my support at this difficult time.

“I’m also committing my ongoing support to Scottish football by way of confirming I will make further donations. 

“I have also introduced others who share my values and who are committed to do the same. 

“This is the start of our journey, together. I have great faith in the SPFL Trust, and confidence that they – and SPFL clubs along with their charitable trusts – will take this opportunity and make a great success of it.”

SPFL Trust CEO Nicky Reid said: “We extend our heartfelt thanks to James for this unprecedented gesture.

“It will enable clubs to access vital funds during these exceptional times, whilst ensuring they can also continue to support the important community work that has been taking place over recent months.

“In Scotland, we often criticise our game, but during this crisis we have seen – once again – that SPFL clubs and their associated charities are trusted to support communities across Scotland.

“Every club is doing their bit, and so we hope the grants we will now make available will go some way to supporting these efforts.

“James’ donation will also be used to launch one of our biggest ever initiatives, Scottish Football United. We hadn’t expected to be funded for this project until 2022, and so to be able to launch this year is fantastic.

“This project is limitless in its scope of ambition, as we aim to bring together the wider Scottish football community with a broad range of public agencies and organisations, so that football in our country can be best prepared to be at the centre of the response to future crises.

“We do a lot already, but we will do so much more.”

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “This extremely generous donation from James will help protect all of our clubs from the very worst effects of Covid-19, enabling them to return to playing as early as it’s safe to do so, whilst continuing to reach out and support communities as they have done throughout the pandemic.

“We know the positive power our clubs have within their communities. During this crisis, they have stepped up to support thousands of socially isolated and vulnerable people who desperately needed help.

“On behalf of every one of the SPFL’s 42 clubs, I want to sincerely thank James for his timely and extremely generous financial support at this critical moment.”