Prince William wants to use 'power of football' to get more men comfortable talking about their mental health

Royal Correspondent
Yahoo Sport UK

The Duke of Cambridge has launched a new initiative with the Football Association (FA) which aims to harness the power of football to encourage people - particularly men - to talk about their mental health.

Heads Up, billed as the biggest ever conversation around mental health, is a partnership between the Football Association (FA) and Heads Together, the campaign spearheaded by the duke's Royal Foundation.

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Speaking at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday morning, William, 36, said he “saw an opportunity to bring the sport I love – that many men talk about more than anything else in their lives – to help lead the next phase of the conversation.”

The duke, who is President of The FA, revealed: “Over the last two years, we’ve been working behind the scenes to decide the best way to harness the power of football to really change the way men think about mental health.

“Heads Up will show men that we all have mental health just like we have physical health.

The Duke of Cambridge at the launch of Heads Up at Wembley Stadium. [Photo: Getty]
The Duke of Cambridge at the launch of Heads Up at Wembley Stadium. [Photo: Getty]

“Building on the amazing attitude that led England to the World Cup semi-finals, it will show us all that mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness.”

A video supporting the campaign and featuring William and England manager Gareth Southgate was also shown at today's launch.

Southgate led the England team to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia - their most successful tournament since 1990.

It’s understood that he brought in sports psychologist Dr Pippa Grange to encourage players to talk openly about their lives and to prepare the squad’s mindset, when it came down to the pressure of winning big matches.

Dele Alli described Dr Grange as an “amazing person,” during the tournament in Russia last year.

The duke joined a discussion with grassroots football players, coaches and fans from clubs across the country ahead of the launch. [Photo: Getty]
The duke joined a discussion with grassroots football players, coaches and fans from clubs across the country ahead of the launch. [Photo: Getty]

This latest initiative appears to be building upon previous work by The FA, but they also aim to reach out to to everybody, including players, supporters, friends and families.

Heads Up will be launched at the FA Community Shield in August 2019 and will culminate at the FA Cup Final in May 2020.

It will be visible across all levels of football, including the men's and women's England teams.

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Martin Glenn, FA’s Chief Executive, said: "Mental health remains one of the biggest issues facing men under the age of 45.

“Around 12 million people play football in England each year, with even more watching on, and Heads Up will use the power and popularity of football to drive awareness and change.

“In football and in life we’re constantly talking about physical fitness – but mental fitness is even more important.”

Earlier this month, William also joined Southgate and footballers Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry, Danny Rose and Jermaine Jenas in a locker room to discuss men's mental health.

The conversation saw the group share issues they have struggled with in their careers.

Filmed at the grounds of Cambridge United Football Club and presented by Dan Walker, the BBC documentary will air on Sunday 19 May.

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