The i newspaper revealed on 2 April 2021 that the Premier League is considering a legal process to ensure academy players that have been released before receiving a professional contract have access to mental wellbeing support.
This process is in its early stages, but once developed, all Premier League clubs may have to offer this support to their players.
Footballers spend most of their lives training, dedicated to the game. Unfortunately, many young players get dismissed before a professional deal lands, and at present, the Football Association does not have a substantive supervisory process to protect and support these athletes, leaving each league to deal with this issue themselves.
In the Premier League’s current regulatory process, football clubs must present a “transition strategy” for players that exit their clubs. However, these clubs have no obligation to provide mental wellbeing support to the players. Notwithstanding this, if the Premier League holds more discussions regarding this support and develops their system, then mental health support could become a focus.
One vital reason, raised by Max Noble, for providing players with mental wellbeing support is to help footballers who have experienced institutional racism, on and off the pitch.
Noble, the former Fulham academy and Wales youth international player, released details in January 2021 of his experience with bullying, racism and threatening behaviour. What he endured ultimately led him to have suicidal thoughts and ongoing anxiety and depression today.
He told the i newspaper that “If you take a boy out of school, you owe him aftercare.”
“That’s it. You can’t promise them the world, then ignore them when they’re depressed, or they’re going through what I had to go through. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. The academy system is failing. You can see just by the numbers it’s completely failing.”
Therefore, Noble called for a compulsory aftercare support system in place for academy players.
Over the last few years, clubs have done more work to provide academy players with appropriate mental wellbeing support, along with career advice and education.
For example, Liverpool has an “alumni project” which provides support to players who have left. Phil Roscoe, their Head of Player Care, stated they have a “duty of care” to help long-standing players.
However, due to an absence of understanding surrounding how being released from a club can affect a player’s mental health, there are a limited number of wellbeing and support processes in place for players.
The Premier League stated that 25.8 per cent of footballers in the PL Academy player cohort from 2018 to 2020 did not receive “a professional contract or had their contract extended at a PL or EFL club.”
If you need help and support on related wellbeing issues, please get in touch with Mohit Pasricha, Head of our Sports and Entertainment Team at Mackrell.Solicitors at email@example.com or on 020 7240 0521.