Prince William criticises football clubs who ignore mental health of young players

Danielle Stacey
Royal Correspondent
The Duke of Cambridge learned about the Irish Football Association’s programmes to help youngsters at Windsor Park stadium in Belfast [Photo: Getty]

The Duke of Cambridge has hit out at football clubs for treating their young players as “financial assets” and not doing enough to support their mental health.

William, 36, warned that youngsters are being dropped by clubs, without adequate support for their future, referring to it as a “dereliction of duty.”

Speaking at Windsor Park football stadium in Belfast, he said: “Some of these [football] clubs don’t do anything about mental health.

“They pick a player up, he plays football, ‘no good’, move on.

“If we’ve got to change anything, we’ve got to change the whole way we look after players.

“Many players come from difficult backgrounds and may have all sorts of issues going on.

“So just to have them as a complete financial asset is pretty…it’s a dereliction of duty I think – having these players not given the key building blocks or support.”

William and Kate meet representatives from Ahead of the Game at Windsor Park stadium in Belfast [Photo: Getty]

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The duke made the comments while meeting representatives from Ahead of The Game. The programme, launched by the Irish Football Association, works to support clubs and volunteers when dealing with mental health issues, with a focus on challenging the stigma and preventative measures.

William, who is President of the Football Association, revealed he was also working on a new campaign around mental health.

He said: “We’re working on something with the FA at the moment, trying potentially to get a mental health FA Cup to have a really punchy campaign we can base something around.”

Mental health is one of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan’s main focuses and they work with various charities and projects to raise awareness, including the Heads Together campaign.

Kate and William go head to head during a football match at Windsor Park stadium in Belfast [Photo: Getty]

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on a two-day visit to Northern IrelandWhile learning about the initiatives at Windsor Park stadium, they also went head-to-head during a football match, where William joked his wife Kate “goes for the ankles.”

They then visited charity Extern’s Roscor Youth Village, where they got involved in a number of outdoors activities. 

Last night Kate and William attended a party at Belfast’s Empire Music Hallwhere they met young people who are making a real difference in Northern Ireland.

On Thursday, they will spend the day in Ballymena, meeting with organisations that are working to create a bright future for the next generation, including the police service,  Cinemagic, which uses film and visual arts to engage young people, and Sure Start, a programme that supports parents with children aged under four years old living in disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland.