Edge Hill and Everton mental health partnership shortlisted for major award

Theo Walcott, wearing his Everton FC kit, crouches down next to a boy and a girl from Linacre Primary School who wear light green jumpers.
Everton FC’s Theo Walcott chats to children from Linacre Primary School.

An Edge Hill and Everton FC mental
health partnership programme has been shortlisted in the 2020 Sports Business

the Blues
, which aims to improve the mental health of young people aged 6-16
through sport, is in the running in the Best Fan Engagement category at the
national awards.

The project which caught the judges’
eyes saw children from Linacre Primary School in Bootle create portraits of
Everton first team players which were then displayed as in-game player graphics
at one of the Blues’ Premier League fixtures in January, in the match-day
programme and across the team’s official social media and website.

A child's drawing, in felt tip, of Fabian Delph in his Everton kit.
Fabian Delph

The drawings trended on social media
and gained international media coverage with fans praising the children’s
drawings and the work of Tackling the Blues.

Professor Andy
Smith, Tackling the Blues programme lead for Edge Hill University, said: “We are extremely pleased to hear the programme has
been shortlisted for an award.

“The feedback we received from the school pupils involved, and of course
fans, was excellent.

“We regularly encourage participants on Tackling the Blues to find
creative ways of expressing their thoughts and experiences of mental health,
and to explore their emotions and feelings in positive ways by engaging in peer

A child's drawing, in felt tip, of Jonas Lossl, in his kit.
Jonas Lossl

“The pictures and portraits drawn by the young people, supported so well
by the Everton players, really captured the imaginations of fans.

“The shortlisting is testimony to how academic research, and
longstanding partnerships between ourselves and Everton in the Community, can
be used to positively engage people in important matters such as mental health.”

Tackling the Blues
is delivered jointly by Edge Hill University and Everton FC’s official charity,
in the Community (EitC)
, with support from club partner USM and funding from
the Premier League.

The initiative,
delivered with The Department of Sport and Physical Activity, aims to teach
young people strategies for good mental and physical health, promote emotional
literacy and improve self-esteem and confidence.

To date it has
engaged with nearly 1,000 young people weekly in primary schools, secondary
schools and community groups, and recently won a cash injection from The Office
for Students and Research England in recognition of the vital impact it has on
the Edge Hill student experience.

On this occasion, the
Bootle schoolchildren enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they visited
Everton’s USM Finch Farm training ground thanks to a surprise visit by club
captain Seamus Coleman, midfielders Fabian Delph and Theo Walcott and
goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.

The players sat for
their portraits and took part in a Q&A on themes including acceptance,
self-esteem, diversity and respect.

The Everton players sit in a row in front of a window facing the camera and the backs of some of the children's heads can be seen out of focus in the foreground.
Everton FC players Jonas Lossl, Fabian Delph, Seamus Coleman and Theo Walcott take part in a Q&A with schoolchildren from Bootle.

Everton FC and EitC have been nominated
in five categories in total, more than any other football finalist in this
year’s awards, with recognition for community impact, sports diversity and the professional
services team.

Other nominees include Cricket World
Cup 2019, golf’s The Open Championship, Premiership Rugby, Jockey Club
Services, The Royal British Legion and a small number of other Premier League

The winners of the 2020 Sports Business
Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London in December.

Edge Hill’s interdisciplinary MSc
in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health
, delivered in association
with Everton in the Community, offers a unique opportunity to undertake
cutting-edge, impact-focused and policy-relevant teaching and research related
to health and wellbeing in sport, physical activity and related sectors.

Schoolchildren put Everton FC players in the picture to promote positive mental health

Children’s drawings to replace player matchday photographs at Goodison Park as USM training ground supports Edge Hill partnership programme Tackling the Blues

Theo Walcott, wearing his Everton FC jersey, smiles while talking to two schoolchildren.
Everton FC’s Theo Walcott chats to children from Linacre Primary School.

Portraits of Everton FC players created by schoolchildren will be shown on stadium screens for the Blues’ home game against Newcastle tomorrow, Tuesday 21 January – helping to raise awareness of the importance of positive mental health among young people.

Club partner
USM invited Year 4 pupils from Linacre Primary School in Bootle to visit
Everton’s USM Finch Farm training ground to take part in a drawing session,
with their player portraits set to make a very special appearance at Goodison
Park on Tuesday night.

The portraits
will replace the in-match player graphics for the Premier League encounter with
Newcastle on the stadium screens for the team announcement and substitutions.
They will also be used in the matchday programme and, away from the ground, the
images will be visible across Everton’s official matchday social media and
website output.

A child's drawing of Fabian Delph
Fabian Delph

The activity is part of USM’s Unlock the Potential campaign and in support of Everton in the Community and Edge Hill University’s award-winning Tackling the Blues programme.

Linacre Primary School is one of a number of schools participating in Tackling the Blues, which aims to teach young people strategies for good mental and physical health, promote emotional literacy and improve self-esteem and confidence. The programme has engaged with more than 850 young people aged six to 16 years old in the last three years.

Delivered collaboratively by Everton in the Community and Edge Hill University, and funded by The Premier League, Tackling the Blues is co-designed and developed with young people, student mentors and education workers who act as project collaborators, to help recruit participants and deliver peer mentor workshops.

Professor Andy Smith, from Edge Hill University, said: “We are delighted that the benefits of the activities which we have designed with young people who engage in the Tackling the Blues programme are being recognised in this way.

“Helping young people to understand the importance of their mental health, how and where to seek help, and to provide activities which impact their lives positively is an important part of our longstanding partnership with Everton in the Community.

“We are especially grateful to the players, USM and everyone at the football club, for their continued support of Tackling the Blues and our wider research on using sport for mental health promotion.”

Drawing portraits
is just one of the ways that participants are encouraged to explore emotions,
behaviours and reactions and gain an understanding of the things we can all do
to support each other. 

Everton FC players Jonas Lossl, Fabian Delph, Seamus Coleman and Theo Walcott sit on chairs in a row holding up the children's drawings of them.
Everton FC players Jonas Lossl, Fabian Delph, Seamus Coleman and Theo Walcott take part in a Q&A with schoolchildren from Bootle.
A child's drawing of Jonas Lossl.
Jonas Lossl

During the drawing session, the Linacre pupils were surprised by a visit from first team stars Fabian Delph, Theo Walcott, Seamus Coleman and Jonas Lossl – who came to sit for their portraits in person.

The players
then tried their hand at their own drawings before taking part in a Q&A
with the children on topics including acceptance, self-esteem, diversity and

A video of the feel-good visit is being shared by the Club on Blue Monday (January 20) – supposedly ‘the most depressing day of the year.’

The pupils have
also been invited to the game against Newcastle to see their drawings come to
life across Goodison Park.

Michael Salla, Director of Health and Sport at Everton in the Community added: “In England, between 9 and 13% of 5-15-year-olds reported having a mental health disorder, with older young people reporting higher rates of mental illness. Suicide is the biggest killer of schoolchildren each year, with 200 on average taking their own lives.

“It is fantastic to see USM showing their support for Tackling the Blues. Programmes like this are vital in providing young people with tools and strategies that they can use as they get older to maintain good mental and physical health.

“It is also about removing stigma around mental health and making it clear that it is important to talk about mental health at any age, to ask for help and support when you need it, and ensure that young people know where to find that support.

“The player portraits are a great way of sharing that message and I am sure that the children will be delighted when they see their drawings on the big screen.”