Tottenham Hotspur to create pioneering Mental Health role amid calls for more academy support
Spurs’ new role is going above and beyond the regulations amid calls for clubs to do more to protect footballers’ wellbeing
Spurs will be the first of the Big Six to recruit a mental health specialist across the entire club (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur/Getty)
Tottenham Hotspur is recruiting a Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Manager to work closely with boys and girls academy players and ensure mental wellbeing is prioritised throughout the club.
One figure who has worked in mental health and football for several years has told i they believe it is the first of its kind – taking a whole-club approach – in a Big Six Premier League club.
Currently, Premier League regulations state that clubs must only have a designated lead in this area, which can fall to a head of safeguarding or a clinical psychologist. Last year, Brighton appointed James Bell as Head of Psychology and Wellbeing and psychologist Cara Lea Moseley as Mental Wellbeing Manager, a first in English football.
Brainnewspaper has revealed the severe effects academy football has had on young footballers in a series of interviews, including with former Fulham academy players Max Noble and Ashley Thompson and former Chelsea academy player Max Thompson, who is now at Watford.
Recently, global stars have spoken publicly about the damaging effect of elite sport on athletes’ mental health and wellbeing. Tennis star Naomi Osaka, American Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and England cricketer Ben Stokes have each put their mental health ahead of their respective sport.
England defender Tyrone Mings also revealed his “mental health did plummet” before representing his country in Euro 2020, staged during the summer, and that he worked with a psychologist on coping mechanisms.
Tottenham’s successful applicant will work between their Enfield training complex and their Lilywhite House offices, attached to their 62,000-seater stadium.
In the wide-ranging role, the Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing manager will ensure that academy footballers “have access to mental health and wellbeing education so that they are empowered to make healthier life choices”.
There are growing calls for professional football to prioritise the mental health of players and to treat it as seriously as physical injuries.
Last weekend, a father whose son took his own life after his football career was cut short by injury called for Mental Health Awareness training – enabling people to spot signs of anxiety, depression and psychosis and act as a conduit for support – to be incorporated into Uefa’s coaching licences. A Uefa B license is mandatory for coaches working in professional football in England.
Philip Mitchell and his family set up the Chris Mitchell Foundation after their son’s death and have facilitated more than 600 staff at clubs in Scotland, where he played, taking the training.
“The onus has been put on these people who are suffering to put their hand up and seek help, and that is the biggest step they have to take and they don’t want to take that,” Philip told i. “There’s still a stigma. It’s still seen as a weakness.”
The Premier League created new rules in 2019 insisting that clubs must make their players available for one session of 45-90 minutes each year to learn about the mental health and wellbeing support available.
Tottenham said that “the club is seeking a Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Manager to lead and develop the Mental Health and Wellbeing services club-wide.
“The role will be pivotal in ensuring compliance with national standards, clinical and good practice, and any legal requirements. This role will also be responsible for ensuring the club can respond to changes in Premier League, FA and government policy.
“The Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Manager will drive workforce awareness and development about mental health and embed it into all aspects of the business.”