An Edge Hill and Everton FC mental health partnership programme has been shortlisted in the 2020 Sports Business Awards.
Tackling 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.
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 support.
“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, Everton 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.
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 clubs.
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.