LONDON: Prince William has launched a withering broadside at football clubs, lambasting them for a “dereliction of duty” in their lack of care for players’ mental health.
Prince William, who along with younger brother Prince Harry have spoken openly about their own mental health issues, said clubs appeared to only see the players as investments not as human beings.
Prince William, who is the President of English football’s governing body the Football Association (FA), made the remarks during a meeting at Windsor Park, the home of the Irish Football Association in Belfast.
“Some clubs don’t do anything about mental health. We’ve got to change the whole way we look after players,” the 36-year-old Prince said to members of Ahead of the Game, an organisation that delivers mental health support to grassroots football clubs.
“Many players come from difficult backgrounds and may have all sorts of issues going on.
“So just to have them as a complete financial asset…it’s a dereliction of duty, I think.”
Prince William, who decried the manner in which players are “discarded” and said they should be “supported” instead of the clubs wiping their hands of them and told to “move on”, said he was in talks with the FA over the possibility of organising a “Mental Health FA Cup”.
“We’re working on something with the FA at the moment, trying potentially to get a mental health FA Cup to have a really punchy campaign we can base something around,” said the Prince, who is a noted supporter of second tier English side Aston Villa.
Prince William’s rare outspoken comments drew praise from across the football community including Michael Bennett, the Professional Footballers’ Association’s head of welfare.
It emerged last year a record number of players approached the body for support with mental health problems.
“Clearly, not everyone is earning £100,000 ($133,000) a week,” said Bennett.
“There are things you don’t see. Players could suffer an untimely death in the family or suffer a serious injury.
“Money isn’t going to stop emotional feelings surfacing,” he said.
Several former and current high profile players have spoken of their battles with mental issues including Tottenham Hotspur and England star Danny Rose, former England international Aaron Lennon and the now retired Stan Collymore.
Collymore, 48, is presently struggling admitting for the last three weeks he has been sleeping for 20 hours a day revealing his “longing never to wake” but he said the Prince’s remarks could be a game changer for the issue.
“Prince William’s comments will carry a serious amount of clout and are potentially game-changing for the way mental health issues are dealt with in football,” Collymore wrote in the Daily Mirror.
“If this doesn’t resonate through the organisation, as guardians of the game, and through the corridors of power at the Premier League and the English Football League then, frankly, I don’t know what will.
“Football is like a factory these days with clubs looking for the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Former Wales star Robbie Savage said Prince William’s remarks would hopefully prompt the clubs to be more caring of those they let go.
“It can only be a good sign Prince William, who genuinely cares for the game, is taking such an interest,” Savage told the Daily Mirror.
“This summer, dozens of teenagers who dream of a career in professional football will be released –- and it’s important that they are not simply left to pick up the pieces.”