Exclusive: Players’ unions to hold emergency talks amid fears of a mental health crisis among athletes – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: March 24, 2020 at 2:45 pm

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Player unions representing the country's biggest sports will hold emergency talks on Tuesdayto discuss the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on their members amid fears of a mental health crisis among sportsmen and women.

Representatives from the Rugby Players Association, Professional Cricketers Association, Professional Footballers Association and PFA Scotland are planning to meet via conference call with growing concerns over salary cuts, job losses and athlete wellbeing. Sports are expecting a spike in players seeking mental health support over the coming weeks and months, while the RPA is making arrangements for increased help in the area of financial advice after Premiership players discovered last week that they would be taking reductions in pay until the competition resumes.

It is absolutely vital sports work together, said the RPAs welfare director Richard Bryan. We have this conference call scheduled to discuss our collective responses to the situation. There will be an opportunity to share ideas and our responses to supporting our players at this unprecedented time. It is a really good opportunity.

As with everyone else across society, we have to pull together and work together as best we can. Tuesday's meeting will be held under the umbrella of the Professional Players Federation (PPF), which has numerous bodies as members including the League Managers Association, the Professional Golfers Association and the Professional Jockeys Association. Telegraph Sport understands that there will be regular, perhaps fortnightly, meetings organised by the PPF to include all the unions and associations over the coming weeks.

Next weeks meeting has been organised by PPF chief executive Simon Taylor, son of PFA chief executive Gordon. Mental health support will be one of the key priorities. It is something we are aware there is going to be quite a rise in the number of cases coming through and it is about dealing with that," said Bryan.

This increase will come as players struggle with not just the uncertainty of issues such as contracts but how their lifestyle has suddenly changed, going from having a highly structured work life with a lot of routine to becoming more isolated and having so much uncertainty, there is no date as to when they will play again.

The RPA currently offers a confidential counselling service, which is funded via their charitable arm Restart Rugby - and Bryan says this support is primed and ready.

However, he believes that there will be a need for the RPA to work with clubs in ensuring the correct support is available. If we need to work with the other stakeholders, we will do that because players can get support via different pathways, clubs, ourselves. We have to share that load as best we can.

Bryan believes the sports will "use each others resources and wealth of knowledge". One area where the unions are already geared up to help players is in the area of education. The PPF has collated a library of online courses players from across sports can take advantage of as they face career uncertainty.

Bryan believes that despite the challenges facing players, they should be using the break in play to work on their personal development for life after sport as well as ensuring regular contact with their colleagues.

We put out guidelines around mental wellbeing and resilience last week and tips around that. Part of that is to maintain a routine, then connecting with your team-mates, friends, families and ourselves, he said. We are telling players to use the opportunity to focus on their personal development in areas like education. Our development managers are going to be working tirelessly on that, it will be crucial.

Bryan has said that the RPAs members recognise the need for shared responsibility now, including taking pay cuts and social distancing from the team environment. However, he is keen to point out that those on lower wage packets, particularly academy players, be protected. It is understood academy players earn from 12-18,000 per year but with the majority on the lower end of that scale.

From a financial point of view, assisting academy players with the advice they need is really important. We are also aware of how clubs are looking to helps those academy players in the light of pay cuts, who are the most vulnerable and perhaps the lowest paid players, he said.

Some clubs are ensuring that academy players will not be touched by the pay cuts, which is a positive at a difficult time. We have to make sure our support is tailored to players at different stages of their careers like academy players. We know from research we have been involved with that academy players carry substantial psychological load already. They are at the top of our agenda in terms of support.

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Exclusive: Players' unions to hold emergency talks amid fears of a mental health crisis among athletes - Telegraph.co.uk

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March 24th, 2020 at 2:45 pm