William urges football clubs to take more action on tackling mental health

Prince William
Prince William

The Duke of Cambridge has spoken of the need for football clubs to take more action to tackle mental health issues as he met adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the sport.

William, who is also president of the Football Association (FA), made his comments during a visit to the charity Sporting Chance in Liphook, Hampshire, which is working with those affected by non-recent sexual abuse in football.

The prince was met by the charity's founder and former Arsenal defender Tony Adams, who explained how it had got involved following the recent emergence of allegations.

William said: "We have been very good at tackling things like racism and such in football and the fact that we are now seen to be leading the way in football and mental health is fantastic.

"We need to normalise this a lot more in stadiums around the country whenever we can, and people, fans, players, need to see that the clubs in particular have a huge role in promoting that message."

Referring to the death of Welsh captain Gary Speed, he added: "My understanding is following the tragic circumstances of Gary Speed, that started the ball rolling about people talking about their struggles and their problems, going 'Wow, if Gary Speed has these problems then I need to go see someone' and it's great news in that sense if from something so horrendous, something so positive has come from that.

"But equally it's very damning on all of us that has been brewing under there for a long time, these young men do not feel comfortable about some of this stuff."

He continued: "I've always felt those young men get put into the situation where they have amazing feet, their skill with the ball is unquestionable, but everyone forgets about the rest of the body, they forget about the head, they forget about how they have been brought up, about what they have been through.

"And it's extraordinary in a business where you invest that amount of money into something, you want to know what you are getting and you want to know everything, you want to look after what you have got.

"I do think the clubs do need to understand that better, you have to be careful you do not over-professionalise the industry.

"People's mental well-being lives go beyond football."

Sporting Chance was set up in 2000 to support professional and former professional sportspeople with a range of issues from addictive disorders to bereavement, depression and anxiety, and has worked with about 70 survivors of historical abuse since the abuse came to light last year.

Ian Ackley, who came out publicly 20 years ago about the abuse he suffered, said: "It was heartwarming to see how genuinely concerned and compassionate he was about the service here at Sporting Chance.

"It has made a huge difference to myself and the other guys to have it acknowledged in such a way, it's fantastic.

"Without the service I wouldn't be the functioning human being I am today, it's been essential to my recovery."