A testimonial match or testimonial game, often referred to simply as a testimonial, is a practice in some sports, particularly in football in the United Kingdom, where a club has a match to honour a player for service to the club. These matches are always non-competitive.
The practice started at a time when player compensation, even those at top professional clubs, was at a level that made it difficult to maintain it as a primary form of employment therefore retirement savings might not exist. These matches are generally well-attended and the gesture by the club can give the honoree income that enables a retirement income base or enable the honoree an opportunity to establish themselves in other employment when they finished playing. This is still the main objective of testimonials in Australia and some other countries.
Clubs typically grant testimonials to players upon reaching ten years of service with a club, although in recent years they have been given to players for particular circumstances such as approaching retirement. Typically, the club invites (depending on the career of the honoree) current or retired teammates (typically the honoree's club and national team) to participate in the match or with the associated festivities. All proceeds from the match go to the player which depending on the applicable country laws may be tax-free.
These matches have become less frequent as changes have occurred in football that make the original purpose less needed or appreciated. Wages have increased, players may not stay with a club as long as they had formerly and those top players that have the esteem of the public and in the past had financial need for such assistance make it less likely for the public support the purpose of these matches. However, testimonial matches for players who have given many years of service to the club (i.e. one-club men) and are popular with fans and have a higher turnout.
Testimonials in top-level football have continued to honour a player but have increasingly become charitable affairs, in which the player gives part or all of the proceeds to charitable activities. For example, longtime Sunderland and Republic of Ireland star Niall Quinn, in a "friendly" in 2002 at the Stadium of Light, donated all of the nearly-£1-million proceeds of the match to the charitable foundation he started that go to the support of children's hospitals in Tyne and Wear, Ireland, and India. Another high-profile charitable testimonial was that of England rugby player Martin Johnson, held at Twickenham on 4 June 2005. This event, which featured many rugby union stars, benefited children's and cancer charities. On 4 September 2010, a crowd of 35,682 attended Jamie Carragher's testimonial match at Anfield, after fifteen years of service to Liverpool, and helped to raise more than £1 million for the defender's "23 Foundation" charity.
In September 2013, the Houston Dynamo announced the first testimonial match for MLS for their retiring forward, Brian Ching. The match was played on 13 December 2013 and featured stars from the history of the Dynamo and the rest of Major League Soccer. Proceeds from the event were shared by Ching's charity, "The House that Ching Built", and Habitat for Humanity.
On 5 September 2015, Borussia Dortmund held a testimonial match for Brazilian back/midfielder Dedé, who had spent 13 seasons with the club. The match featured a team of former Brazilian players against an international team. Many of the players had at one time played for Dortmund. A portion of the proceeds went to the Borussia Dortmund-sponsored "leuchte auf" foundation.
Manchester United F.C hosted a testimonial for Wayne Rooney on 3 August 2016 at Old Trafford. The match was played against his former club Everton. Wayne Rooney's testimonial was the first game between Premier League clubs to be streamed live over social media via Facebook All proceeds of the match went to charity.
- Benefit season, a similar concept in cricket.
- "Lucas Radebe: The original Kaiser Chief". BBC Sport.
- "Should testimonials be scrapped?". BBC Sport.
- "Payback time for footballers?". BBC Sport.
- Time to Do Away With Testimonials for Rich Footballers
- "Brian Ching Testimonial Match". Houston Dynamo.