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British RoyalsCoronavirusThe Cambridges

Duke of Cambridge backs ‘Mentally Healthy Football’ declaration

William, Duke of Cambridge
By Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0

The Duke of Cambridge has backed a new initiative from the football community to ensure that mental health is always prioritised within the sport as signatories vow to support the Mentally Healthy Football declaration.

Based as a legacy of the Heads Up campaign that ran for the 2019-20 season, the declaration is “a commitment from the game to continue to raise awareness on mental health and to embed an environment in the UK where players, staff, managers and officials are able to spot the signs that someone they know might be struggling and are encouraged to look after their mental health just as they do their physical health,” according to a blog post on the Heads Together website.

The signatories include representatives from the clubs, leagues and organisations within the UK, and they have all pledged to work together as a team to ensure proper mental health support, just as they would on the field.

“The Premier League is proud to have supported the Heads Up campaign this season to help encourage conversation on mental health,” said Gary Hoffman, the Chair of the Premier League, who signed on behalf of the League.

“Our clubs undertake vital work supporting the mental health of players and staff, as well as fans and those in their local communities.

“By building on the work already being done, and working collaboratively with our colleagues across football, we hope we can make a real difference and help remove the stigma associated with mental health.”

William narrated a short video announcing the news. He said:

“This has been a football season unlike any other. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone, and it is clear it will have a big impact on many people’s mental health. Football’s role in breaking the stigma around mental health has never been more important.

“Through the Heads Up campaign, we’ve seen the whole of football come together to kick off a conversation. But the journey doesn’t stop here. I am delighted to announce that today, the entire football system across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has united around a common goal – to develop a mentally healthy culture across the game by signing the Mentally Healthy Football declaration.

“Football is a team sport. And for the first time, there is a collective game plan to make mental health a top priority within the game. This means building on important work that is already happening – and rolling out further efforts across the system to develop mentally healthy clubs at every level – so that the whole football community can benefit from a mentally healthy environment. Where players, staff, officials and managers are encouraged to stay on top of their mental fitness just as they do their physical fitness; where they feel able to spot the signs that they, a teammate or a colleague might be struggling and know where to access support; and where speaking out about mental health is seen as a sign of strength, rather than weakness.

“Not only will this benefit future generations who work and play within the game, but it will also send a clear message to football’s millions of fans about the importance of mental health. That is a legacy we can all be proud of – following a season we will never forget.”

To discuss the Mentally Healthy Football declaration, Prince William joined football stars David Beckham, Tyrone Mings, Carlo Ancelotti, Steph Houghton and Andros Townsend on a Zoom call.

“I really hope you guys feel that the tide is turning on mental health, that we are making progress,” the Duke of Cambridge says in the video.

David Beckham says, “It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to say that. It’s okay to come out and say ‘I need help.’”

The FA Cup Final, renamed the Heads Up FA Cup Final this year, will take place on Saturday between Arsenal and Chelsea.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.