Sunday, 31 July 2011


On the second anniversary of Sir Bobby Robson’s death this new blog from Tom Chaplin, writer in residence with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, feels particularly appropriate:

Wagers huh? They don’t half cause you problems sometimes. Like the one I made about competing (that is categorically not the right word for it but there we go) in the Great North Run if my Writer in Residence with the Foundation came together. As you know because you’re reading this, the residency DID come to together and so here I am fulfilling my end of the bet, preparing for the run.

Recently, another bet was made through the medium of twitter that has drawn a huge amount of interest in the last couple of days. If a certain player didn’t sign for Newcastle United one twitter user wagered, he would donate £100 to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. All fine there and very noble principles. But what happens if the donation goes unpaid?!

For those unused to twitter, a very brief guide. It is a site where you share your thoughts on the world. Share what you’re doing, where you’ve been or where you’re going and friends can thus keep track of what each other are up to. It’s a 21st century social thing, where your friends are “followers” and all that matters must fit into 140 characters, which is kind of barmy I know but that’s the way it goes.

A key player in the drama, twitter user @TaylorandBesty picks up the story: “Here was a guy who’d made a bet and lost (the player Gervinho signed for Arsenal instead) but didn’t make good on his promise. To me and others it was an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment. We thought, for a bit of laugh, if a hundred people donated a pound to the Foundation we would have honoured his promise on his behalf.”

#IAmColin was born. Users share topics with others by the use of a hashtag – i.e. people who might want to talk about North East football might search for and use the hashtags #nufc or #safc to follow discussion online about their team. What followed can only be described as a phenomenon.

By the time @TaylorandBesty went to bed on Thursday evening (28th July) the donation had been made – three times over. The hashtag had worked. And the giving didn’t stop. Football fans of all colours and crests donated, pressed into action by modern technology and the good old fashioned pull of Sir Bobby. Heart-felt £1 donations were made, sometimes £2 or £3 pounds, then tens and twenties, fifties even.

The money poured in. Some were moved by the laugh of it all, happy to part with cash to be involved with #IAmColin, others were more sensitive – if you owe Sir Bobby you should pay, went the thinking.

As Friday came to a close @TaylorandBesty was hoping for even more – “donations are heading £1500 which for something that started out as a bit of fun is fantastic”, and by way of an update he tweeted later “keep donating and get us to £2000 this weekend”. Absolutely fantastic.

So it’s a cautionary tale. 1) If you make a bet on the internet, pay up or face the music, and 2) If you think you owe Sir Bobby something, try your best to come through on your end of the bargain. Please?

All of which set me thinking. I owe Sir Bobby 13 miles of the Great North Run. I guess I’m just going to have to find a way of honouring the bet. See you in South Shields.

If you’d like to follow the progress of #IAmColin or donate, search for it on twitter – you’ll find it! Or, if you’d like to support my run, please do so at