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© David Matthew-Jones

Fan groups highlight importance of mental health

2020 has been a uniquely tough year with public health protocols meaning many football fans feel more isolated than ever.

While matchdays might normally have acted as a release valve, a chance to share a common experience with fellow supporters, that has largely been on hold for the past nine months. In addition many people feel extra pressures over the Christmas and New Year period.

With that in mind we thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight some of the positive work that supporters’ groups around the country are doing in relation to mental health matters. If you are having your own issues please do visit some of the links on this page and reach out.

It’s good to talk.

If you’re a supporters’ group and have carried out your own activities which aren’t covered below, pop us a message and we’d be more than happy to add it to the list.

Alternatively if you’d like to arrange something at your club, but just need a little guidance and support from people who have already walked that path, we’d be happy to help.

Useful links

Contact Mind for dealing with mental health matters over Christmas and New Year. Mind also have a partnership with the EFL and run a joint Have Your Mate’s Back campaign. Other useful resources…

For medical advice call the NHS on 111.

Club case studies

  • Cambridge Fans United take a keen interest in this area and the Cambridge United Supporters Panel has even appointed a Supporters Mental Health Liaison Officer (David Burkett) who is available to chat to fellow fans. Cambridge United’s Community Trust also launched Forever United which aims to keep fans connected during this challenging time.
  • Canaries Trust appointed Kris Gunns as their Mental Health Ambassador for The Canaries Trust and work in partnership with Gary Dack, Norwich City’s head of safeguarding, to “create a more positive experience with regard to supporting the football club, both on a match day and online”. Targeting cyber bullying is a priority. The Canaries Trust are also part of The Calm Football Collective, an initiative where football fans can meet and discuss issues and offer support. The trust is organising an online mental health forum to coincide with “Time To Talk Day” (4th February 2021) where people will be able to listen to both those who assist with support and those who suffer from mental illness, with proceeds being donated to Mind and CALM. It’s open to fans of any club. They have also launched a new Twitter account @CanariesTrustMH and can be contacted via MH@canariestrust.org
  • Everton’s Fans Forum raised the issue with their club during their recent October meeting, and on the back of this in partnership with Everton in the Community the club launched ‘virtual away days‘ to help fans interact and keep in touch despite being unable to attend matches.
  • Hull City Supporters’ Trust launched a replica of the club’s iconic / infamous (depending on your sartorial tastes) 1992/93 “tiger stripes” shirt with profits from the sales going to Dementia Friendly East Riding, MindHEALTH, and Mind Hull and East Yorkshire. £1500 was raised in February and as shirt sales continue additional funds are handed over to the charities – this month £800 was donated to the existing three charities plus a further £500 to Dovehouse Hospice, Age Concern and the Chris Chilton Fund
  • Leeds United Supporters’ Trust have a partnership with Andy’s Man Club. “For over four years they have been helping men to talk about their mental health and aim to halve the suicide rate amongst men in the UK, which is currently the largest cause of death of men aged under 45,” say LUST.
  • Newcastle United Supporters Trust held a joint mental health workshop with the NUFC Foundation on Thursday 10th December and have been surveying supporters on mental health issues. 
  • Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust have teamed up with Forest Community Trust’s “Tricky to talk” campaign and associated hub – a meet up for people needing help with mental health issues. They have worked with project lead Claire Henson to promote the concept to supporters via their website and Facebook page. The trust also ran a mental health awareness course with Claire with members joining the session to learn more about mental health and how to help fellow supporters. Fans can find out more by emailing: trickytotalk@Nottinghamforest.co.uk 
  • Manchester United Women FC’s Barmy Army have been running Zoom calls midweek and on a weekend, the Sunday Social, for members to call in and stay in touch. They’ve also offered ‘watchalongs’ during matches, which morph into the Sunday Social (if that happens to be the matchday). Their committee members have also reached out into their membership to offer support for those with problems. For more information contact them on Twitter via @barmyarmyMUWFC
  • Spirit of Shankly joined forces with the club’s official charity, LFC Foundation, has joined to launch The Big Red Talk – a live virtual event in support of fans mental health which took place on 11th December – and involved various workshops to help educate fans on the importance of mental health, speaking your mind and caring for personal wellbeing. Sessions throughout the evening will provide participants with various coping strategies and advice on how to handle difficult conversations when discussing mental health.
  • Sunderland’s Branch Liaison Committee joined the club’s official charity, the Foundation of Light, to create the Mental Health Matchday Hub walk-in facility last season. It’s available for fans seeking help before home games. Local charity Washington Mind helped develop the service with the club and supporters – the charity provide two trained counsellors to staff the service on matchdays.

Know of a case study we’ve missed? Email info@thefsa.org.uk with details and we’ll add it to the list.

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