In the UK, professional football clubs are being used as settings for the delivery of interventions that promote mental health in a number of ways including; (I) the delivery of physical activity interventions to improve the mental health of the general population (II) the delivery of physical activity interventions for people experiencing mental disorders and (III) the delivery of community mental health services within the confines of the football club.

Dr Kathryn Curran (Leeds Beckett University) describes her recent article with colleagues, titled: Tackling mental health: the role of professional football clubs, reflecting on the role of professional football clubs in contributing to tackling mental health in local communities surrounding sports stadia. 

This paper offers insights into mental health interventions delivered within/by professional football clubs and the available evidence concerning their reach, effectiveness and impact. The findings suggest that professional football clubs can help to facilitate access to mental health services, particularly among young people for whom accessing such services may be highly stigmatised. Furthermore, the findings highlight that such interventions have a positive impact on health. However, in order to capitalise on this opportunity, the research suggests a number of actions:

  1. funding agencies and commissioners must provide appropriate resources (human and financial) for effective delivery and evaluation, and,
  2. a more strategic approach to working towards the mental health agenda must be adopted.

It is argued that this change in practice would allow professional football clubs to offer those in need access to high quality interventions.

While professional football clubs may not be the panacea regarding improving mental health outcomes for all, the acceptability and scalability of football-based interventions warrants further investigation and investment from researchers and clinicians across the globe.


To read this article click here and to contact the author email: or to link up on Twitter @Kathryn_Curran. You will also find more about the author and her other research here on her University profile or Linkedin.

To cite this article:

Curran, K., Rosenbaum, S., Parnell, D., Stubbs, B., Pringle, A., & Hargreaves, J. (2016). Tackling mental health: the role of professional football clubs. Sport in Society, DOI:10.1080/17430437.2016.1173910.  Link to article is here.


Related research:

Curran, K., Drust, B., Murphy, R., Pringle, A. and Richardson, D. (2015) The Challenge and impact of engaging hard-to-reach populations in regular physical activity and health behaviours: An examination of an English Premier League Football in the Community Men’s Health Programme. Public Health. Link to article is here.

Hulton, A., Drust, B., Flower, D., Richardson, D. and Curran, K. (2015). The Effectiveness of a Community Football Programme on Improving Physiological Markers of Health in a HTR Male Population. Soccer and Society, 17 (2), 1-13. Link to article.

Curran, K., Drust, B. and Richardson, D. (2014). “I just want to watch the match!” A practitioner’s reflective account of men’s health themed match day events at an English Premier League Football Club. Soccer and Society, 15 (6), 919-933. Link to article.

Curran, K., Bingham, D.D., Richardson, D. and Parnell, D. (2014) Ethnographic engagement from within a Football in the Community programme at an English Premier League football club. Soccer and Society, 15 (6), 934-950. Link to article.

Bingham, D.D., Richardson, D., Curran, K. and Parnell, D. (2014). Fit Fans: perspectives of a practitioner and understanding participant health needs within a health promotion programme for older men delivered within an English Premier League Football Club. Soccer and Society, 15 (6), 883-901. Link to article.

Pringle, A., Zwolinsky, S., Curran, K. and Parnell, D. (2015). Sport and Arts- Important Settings for Health Improvement. Perspectives in Public Health, 135, 218.Link to article.

Parnell, D. and Curran, K. (2015). The role professional football clubs could play in delivering pragmatic physical activity interventions in the recovery from mental illness. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49 (15), 1026. Link to article.