The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) is offering Leicester City players and staff counselling from BACP members following the death of the club’s owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Michael Bennett, head of player welfare, says the PFA have a network of BACP counsellors and therapists ready to support the players and staff after Mr Srivaddhanaprabha and four other people lost their lives in a helicopter crash near to Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Saturday.
He said: “Leicester City have support already in place and the PFA are ready to offer our help and support as well.”
Mr Bennett said the counsellors and therapists have the experience of supporting the football community through difficult situations, such as the death of Ugo Ehiogu, the Tottenham U23s coach and former England and Aston Villa defender.
“He collapsed at the training ground in front of players and coaching staff,” said Mr Bennett. “We offered our services to Tottenham and they utilised our offer.
“There have been a number of different instances at clubs and we make contact to make them aware of the work we do and the support we offer.”
Mr Bennett is a former professional footballer who played for Charlton Athletic, among others. He has been a BACP member since 2004 and has overseen huge changes to the PFA’s counselling provision.
“I wanted to come back into football to offer some talking therapy, as there wasn’t any talking therapy available when I played,” he said. “You just had to get on with it.
“That service was implemented in 2007 for players to talk about the issues they were experiencing both inside and outside the game.
“In 2011 we set up a nationwide network of counsellors. At the moment we have more than 200 counsellors and therapists, who are all BACP members, alongside the PFA 24 hour counselling telephone service.
“We are raising awareness around the support available and talking about the emotional side of the game.”
The PFA last month held its second mental health and wellbeing conference at St George’s Park, the English Football Association's national football centre near Burton-on-Trent.
Titled Injured. Two, the conference aimed to look at the changes needed to support the work of professional healthcare providers and to develop a more integrated approach to football and sport.
“We invited all the stakeholders in football, staff members from all 92 Premier League and English Football League clubs and the 22 clubs in the Women’s Super League 1 and 2,” Mr Bennett said.
“It was a chance for football to come together and for us to show what the PFA have in place but also for clubs to showcase and share the good work they are implementing at their own clubs.
“We are making a difference. In 2016 we had 160 members use the service. In 2017 we had 403 people use it and we will see more than 500 members use the service by the end of the year.
“The numbers are growing year on year because we are now getting in front of the players and delivering workshops so they are aware of the support that’s out there.”