Sport, as we know is a billion pound industry and its leading light, football is played and watched around the world, from Iceland to Malaysia, conflict zones to wealthy principalities. Its showpiece event, the World Cup final was watched by a global audience of one billion last summer.
Football wouldn’t reach these broadcasting and commercial highs if it wasn’t for the players (along with a good marketing team too) being as ridiculously talented as they are. However, what has always struck me is that how the most important person in this industry, the player themselves of which the game is obsolete without, can have their mental health and wellbeing neglected.
A former footballer recently tried to commit suicide, his second attempt, by stepping in front of a lorry, because he was depressed. Depression effects people from all walks of life, but it still has a stigma attached to it, mainly because people need something physical to measure an illness by, whereas mental health, is intangible by its nature, however it can leave very real physical consequences behind.
70% of executives and business owners don’t acknowledge mental issues as a viable reason for time to be off work. One in four people will experience a mental health illness in their lifetime and elite sportsmen and women are no exception.
The governing bodies of Football can be slow to adopt certain ways of doing things, with goal line technology being a good example. It seems as though it’s guilty of burying its head in the sand because it’s actually afraid of what it will find out if they engage with the topic. They seem to employ a reactive tactic instead of a proactive strategy.
Football, as well as other sports could take a leaf out of Cricket’s handbook when it comes to dealing with this sensitive but incredibly important issue head on. For the past three years the number of cricketers alone seeking help for mental health-related issues has doubled year-on-year. However it talks about it openly for all and sundry to hear, see and read, which is how it should be.
Sport is very powerful and so if the big organisations in the industry and its famous names are talking about it, it creates a ripple effect throughout the local and global community, which only help.
Whether your way of paying the bills is from playing football or building houses, you are likely to know someone who has been affected by mental health, directly, or indirectly. Forward thinking and brave companies are becoming more aware that it’s not how well their staff perform in the office, it’s how well they feel outside of it.
Because of that they are putting steps in place to make sure their people are being listened to and given help to improve their current situation. If you would like to find out more about how we help companies do this, feel free to drop us a line.
Patrick Phelan, Client Partner at The Happiness Index