Everyone knows that when players are told that they are going to be released, is a very traumatic experience. In many cases, all of the players are brought from a changing room full of their teammates to learn their fate.
Young players are made to hold it all in but they’re sitting in the changing room they have used for years where their young lives have been shared with teammates, kit man, coaches, physiotherapists and more and you literally get told no, and it’s within ten minutes, you’ve got all your stuff and you’re out and you never see them or the place where you`ve shared your life again. So it’s just kind of like from everything to nothing in a split second.
In the longer term, in some cases up to a year after their release, many players experienced psychological difficulties
Is anyone surprised that depression and anxiety sets in? I`ve heard players say:
I won’t lie to you, yeah I did get down after I left. Like, properly … like I’m not gonna sit here and try and tell anyone it doesn’t affect me, it affected me more, like … a year after … or like, six, seven months after and some even longer.
Many players received no support or aftercare from their clubs, which added to their difficulty transitioning away from the club. One said:
The club kind of just leave you to it which is hard because you’d been there for so long. Then they just brush you aside like you’re nothing. The players found it hard to go to their parents for help, because they did not want to burden them with their emotional difficulties.
Many players do note the excellent support provided by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and especially League Football Education. I myself was LFE Placement officer in Spain for 4 years prior to setting up Europa Point FC from scratch and singled handedly just to give second chances. Counselling from the PFA is optional, though, and the players are the ones to contact them for support. League Football Education does an even closer job through their regional officers. Automatically scheduled counselling could make a difference to players released from academies.
Some players speak of the benefit of seeking support through independent counselling services:
Players feel so so down. Counselling sessions do help to make these players a better person and more resilient.
Players released from academies also need more support from their clubs. Academies could develop pre-release programmes aimed at preparing players for release which could support their transition away from their club. This could include focusing on players’ coping skills, improving their ability to seek social support and developing their confidence and self-esteem.
In January 2022, Crystal Palace Football Club announced that they would offer three years of aftercare for released players between the ages of 18 and 23, with a “player care officer” allocated to released players to support them and help them find a new football club or move into education or a job.
In June 2022, new guidelines passed by the Premier League will require all Premier League and English Football League clubs to give a three-year “commitment of support” to released academy players. Initiatives like those at Crystal Palace are hopefully the start of a sea change in the British academy system. If more clubs follow suit, they can help prevent those childhood dreams from becoming nightmares for released players and their families.
Watch Dropped, a hard-hitting, heartbreaking new film which highlights the devastating impact top-flight football academies have on young men when they drop those who don’t make.
The creative highlights what happens when they are given no mental health support to deal with what is often a life-changing and traumatic decision.
Dropped exposes mental health issues
The beautifully shot but harrowing four-minute film, ‘Dropped’, exposes the harsh reality of the mental health issues currently running rampant in youth football, where children are brutally rejected at what is often the most vulnerable time of their young lives.
The film tackles the impact of being deemed not good enough and highlights how the young hopefuls can be left feeling so heartbroken by rejection that some want to end their lives.
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