Football programme to promote wellbeing receives funding
Illustration of football on green pitch.

A programme which uses football to promote mental health and wellbeing has received additional funding from Scottish government.

It's called 'The Changing Room - Extra Time' initiative, and it has been awarded £100,000 for a fourth year.

It builds on a 12-week programme which takes place at football stadiums across Scotland and supports men to open up as they participate in walking football games, stadium tours, pitch-side walks and talks from a motivational speaker.

Extra Time aims to give people the chance to speak in more depth about their mental wellbeing and explore areas which are giving them particular challenges or concerns.

The programme is delivered by SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health) in partnership with the SPFL Trust and associated community trusts at Aberdeen (AFC Community Trust), Rangers (Rangers Charity Foundation), Heart of Midlothian (Big Hearts) and Hibernian (Hibernian Community Foundation) football clubs.

Health Secretary Neil Gray, who visited the initiative at Pittodrie, home of Aberdeen FC as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, said: “We know that it’s never been more important to look after our physical and mental wellbeing. It is pleasing to see this initiative go into its fourth year and to hear that is really is making a difference to people’s lives.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about how we are feeling and this project has really helped people open up about their mental health.”

Billy Watson, chief executive at SAMH said the project builds confidence, helps get relationships on the right track and has even saved lives.

“Football and mental health are a great match," he said.

"What this project shows is that football fans are not just comfortable talking about their mental health, they’re really keen to do so – as long as it’s in the right place."