Today, we know Francis Duku as the owner and CEO of Our Game, an organisation that is dedicated to providing effective support to, and addressing the gaps in the semi-professional and amateur game. What a lot of people don’t know is that the concept of Our Game goes all the way back to Francis Duku’s years as a football player for Gravesend.
In a pre-season fixture for Gravesend, Francis Duku broke his ankle attempting an overhead kick. This misfortune put an end to his childhood dream of playing professional football, but proved to be the inspiration behind his plans to revolutionise the game for many others.
The initial injury was just the beginning of his problems. He experienced a series of misfortunes that painted a picture of the harsh realities amateur football players face when they get injured. Francis’ fractured ankle was misdiagnosed by two physios and a doctor as a sprain. The approach of the operation was for that of a normal person, and not somebody with aspirations of being a top athlete. Although he was still able to play, going through the wrong treatment likely kept him from reaching a professional level.
This experience made him reflect on how fortunate he was to have private medical insurance, which is something most non-League players don’t have. Knowing that many other non-League players would fall victim to similar or worse circumstances, Francis Duku came up with the idea for Our Game.
Today, the Our Game membership has expanded its offering far beyond help with injury problems. There are retail discounts and support with disciplinary matters, cut-price boot offers and, importantly in these fraught times, counselling services too.
With the help of Lincoln City manager Michael Appleton, Duku is now looking to tailor the membership offering to help players and clubs at League One and League Two level as the pandemic pushes more and more into a situation where they need protection.
For Duku, satisfaction comes from the knowledge that he is providing a service that is helping many who find themselves ignored by the system.
“A lot of people outside the game think of footballers earning £200,000 a week,” he says. “It is a tiny, tiny minority. There are loads of much less, right through to players who pay to play because they enjoy football. This isn’t about millionaires all over the place but this is the perception. The stereotype of a footballer stigmatises people who need help.
Today, Our Game is the UK’s leading provider of products and support services for the thriving semi professional and recreational athlete community. Forbes Family Group (FFG), has recently invested in Our Game by securing a sizable minority position. The investment was made from FFG’s new ‘Ace Fund’, and has placed Dean Forbes, FFG’s chairman on Our Game’s board of directors.
Our Game’ membership has increased consistently year on year and has proven resilient during the pandemic as players have relied on many of its services, especially its loss of earnings coverage and rehabilitation support for injured players proving the robustness of the business model.