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.