Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti emphasised he and the Club would give any player suffering with mental health issues “all the support they need” as he joined the Duke of Cambridge for a wide-ranging discussion on footballers’ wellbeing.
Ancelotti spoke to His Royal Highness - who visited Everton's official charity, Everton in the Community, earlier this year - on a video call. The call also included one of Ancelotti’s former players in ex-England skipper David Beckham, as well as Lionesses captain Steph Houghton and current Premier League pair Tyrone Mings and Andros Townsend.
They discussed how the pressures attached to performing at the highest level can affect players' mental health and outlined the positive steps people in need can take.
On Monday, it was announced the Premier League had signed the ‘Mentally Healthy Football’ declaration, committing to make mental health a key priority at all levels of the game. The declaration is a legacy of the FA’s Heads Up campaign, launched in February to use the power of football to encourage a conversation around all aspects of mental health.
Responding to a question from the Duke of Cambridge regarding a manager’s role in supporting players’ wellbeing, Ancelotti said: “First of all, it is really important to build a relationship with your players.
“It is also important the environment the Club builds – in the sense that it should be an environment where the player feels comfortable, feels safe, and can speak their thoughts without problems.
“If a player has a problem, as a manager you have to give them all the support and the Club has to give all the support.”
Everton’s commitment to supporting people with mental health issues is highlighted by the Club’s plans to build a dedicated £1million facility on Spellow Brick Lane close to Goodison Park.
Planning permission for the The People’s Place was granted in May. It will provide an overarching service to anyone in need, promoting positive mental health, as well as offering support related to suicide awareness and suicide prevention.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE’S PLACE AND DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN
Everton manager Ancelotti outlined why communication is instrumental in helping people overcome poor mental health – and explained how football has taken important strides in encouraging players to talk openly about any issues they may be experiencing.
“The demands for players are really high,” he explained. “They are demanded to be fit, in great physical condition and to be mentally strong.
“You ask the players to be focused, motivated and really concentrated all the time, in training and in games.
“We can know everything about the physical condition – with statistics, with data. I know if a player is fit 80 per cent, 90 per cent or 100 per cent.
“It is more difficult to know about their mental condition. In my experience, it was very rare that a player comes to you and says, ‘mentally, I am not good’.
“It is changing in the past few years, the fact a player can come and say to you, ‘I have had a panic attack’ or ‘I feel a lot of pressure on my shoulders’.
"But before, never. It never happened.
“I hope this change continues.”