Sport Northern Ireland and NIFL announce new partnership with Sporting Chance

Steven Mills, Club Development Officer with Northern Ireland Football League, Antoinette McKeown, Sport Northern Ireland CEO and Oisin McConville, Sporting Chance Facilitator and recently announced Sport Northern Ireland Mental Health Ambassador.
Steven Mills, Club Development Officer with Northern Ireland Football League, Antoinette McKeown, Sport Northern Ireland CEO and Oisin McConville, Sporting Chance Facilitator and recently announced Sport Northern Ireland Mental Health Ambassador.
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Sport Northern Ireland and the NI Football League are pleased to announce a new partnership with Sporting Chance, which will provide education sessions to Danske Bank Premiership and Academy teams, focusing on emotional and mental health in a sporting context.

Each workshop will explore topics including substance misuse, compulsive behaviours and addiction including input from a top-level athlete on the emotional difficulties that affected them either during or after their sporting career and the steps they took to overcome their problems.

Tony Adams, the former Arsenal and England captain and the founder of Sporting Chance, welcomed the opportunity to work with Sport NI and the NI Football League and to reach out to footballers across Northern Ireland:

“I am thrilled Sporting Chance are once again working with the great people at Sport NI and really excited about the work we can do in collaboration with the NI Football League. For the past 19 years we’ve been working hard to educate Professional Footballers’ Association members and it is fantastic news that every player in all twelve Premiership teams and all the young players in the Academy structure in NI will get that same message.

“For me, it’s a simple one: competitive sport comes with its own set of problems and pressures and if we’re making a living or maybe one day want to make a living from competitive sport, it can be a difficult environment in which to open up about how these problems and pressures affect us.

“I really hope our work with Sport NI and the NI Football League can encourage as many players as possible in Northern Ireland to get the right help when they need it and crucially, get help sooner rather than later before it causes them more pain than it needs to.”

Andrew Johnston, Managing Director of the NI Football League, ‘We are proud to announce the partnership with Sporting Chance and believe our clubs and players will benefit greatly from their experience, expert advice and guidance.

“We aim to develop a welfare support system for players, support staff and management and the Sporting Chance partnership will offer education and support not only to our senior professionals but also the talented young players within our Academy League.”

Antoinette McKeown, CEO of Sport NI, reinforced the value of this partnership between Sport NI, Sporting Chance and NIFL:

‘It is critical that our valued athletes, both female and male, are supported to maintain strong mental health, to build resilience against destructive behaviours such as gambling, alcohol and drug addictions and to know where and when to seek help in a caring environment. Sport NI wants to ensure that everyone involved in sport continue to enjoy the positive benefits of participating in their game’.

This particular initiative is a vital part of Sport NI and PHA’s Wellbeing in Sport programme, designed to improve mental health and wellbeing for people involved in sport. Two time Commonwealth Games boxing gold medalist, Paddy Barnes became the first Ambassador for the programme and now All Ireland star Oisin McConville has pledged his support to help athletes. Having battled a gambling addiction for a number of years, Oisin has successfully come out the other side and wants to help other athletes who have gotten themselves in a similar position.

“For 20 years, sport was my passion, it was my life. As an athlete, I’ve always understood the importance of conditioning -it keeps the body going, helps the player perform at their best. But during that time I neglected the conditioning of my mind, if your wellbeing isn’t in the same place as the body, the process can be a difficult one and that’s why it’s vital to have programmes like Sporting Chance available to help athletes overcome and address their problems, giving them a second chance to perform at their best on and off the field”

More information can be found at wellbeinginsport@sportni.net