Over 70% of released players 'not offered enough support'

The survey was of players under the age of 23 released by Premier League and EFL clubs last year

The survey was of players under the age of 23 released by Premier League and EFL clubs last year

ALMOST three quarters of players under the age of 23 who were released last season have said they were not given enough support by their clubs, according to research by ITV News.

The survey, headed up by ITV Sports Editor Steve Scott, was of footballers axed by their clubs in the 2019/20 season and more than 100 responded.

Of those, 88% said they had experienced depression or anxiety since being released and more than half said they would not recommend their former club to other players. 72% felt they were not given enough support by the club that had released them.

One of the respondents was James Aspinall, a goalkeeper released by Wigan at the end of last season.

The 21-year-old revealed that he had subsequently experienced suicidal thoughts and that there had not been enough support from Wigan.

He said: ”There’s a lot clubs can do, maybe to put in a follow-up programme, because I was told, ‘We’ll keep in contact with you, we’ll see how you’re doing, there is a support network around you, we’re here for you’.

"But I didn’t really receive any of that. They just kind of assumed, ‘You know what, it’s James, it’s fine, he’s lively, he’s a presence on the training ground.' It’s the feeling of rejection, you get cast to one side and you just feel, I can’t explain it, it’s like not a will to live.”

In response, Wigan said they placed “significant emphasis on preparing our players – especially those under the age of 23 – for the challenges a career in football may present and also for life after football, whether that be after a lengthy career in the game or if a player’s career doesn’t progress beyond a certain stage.”

They added that they kept in contact with former players of all ages who had been released and would be “reaching out” to Aspinall “to offer further support.”

The Premier League said: "We have a really robust database of players three to five years post scholarship and are working with clubs and the PFA to track those who are now slightly older and seeing where they are.”

They also pointed to an “Academy Alumni” scheme that was being set up at each club in order to track former players and offer support to them.

The EFL refused to respond to the findings but did point out that “there are substantial provisions in place and a substantial amount of work undertaken to try to prepare players for the time when they exit the elite football environment.”

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