WEDNESDAY 15 AUG 2018 3:22 PM


On Monday, a Barnsley FC fan received a letter from the CEO of his favourite club offering him a friendly ear and a word of support. CEO Guathier Ganaye says to the fan, Chris Ryder, that the club had noticed Ryder was going through a hard time, based on his social media posts. He closes the letter by including contact details for the UK’s mental health charity, Mind.

Since July, Mind has been a partner of the English Football League to help promote mental health and wellbeing among the football community in England. Ganaye cited the partnership in his letter, writing that the squiggles on the backs of the player shirts referenced the partnership with Mind. That’s exactly what the partnership was designed to do. Its four principles include supporting the EFL’s community, raising funds and improving mental health within the community, but it also set out to ‘raise awareness about mental health with fans, clubs and staff.’

Hayley Jarvis, head of physical activity at Mind, says, "It is heartening to see the overwhelmingly positive response to the letter from Barnsley FC's CEO to a fan going through a tough time with their mental health. We know that football has real power to change people's lives for the better, which is why we are so proud to be the EFL's charity partner for this and next season."

In practice, the partnership will work like most others in sport, with cross-promotional aspects, joint communications and activities throughout the duration. But for Barnsley, it has also been an opportunity to take action on an individual level and support its community in a tangible way.

Day-to-day, the partnership’s main touchpoint will be Mind’s logo, integrated into the player names, and a new number design on football shirts. But, the joint benefits, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey, says should be farther reaching as the year progresses. “We know that improving mental health is a huge challenge in society, especially for men, but through this partnership we will be proud to help raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma and hopefully have a positive impact on the lives of millions of individuals who currently suffer in silence.”

In a survey conducted at the outset of the partnership, football fans expressed a difficult time talking about their emotions, with 56% saying it was easier to engage emotionally over football than in other parts of life. Jarvis adds, "Football brings millions of people together and is a great platform to start positive conversations. One in four of us is affected by a mental health problem which means that at every club, on every terrace and in every community, we need to be prioritising mental health."