Why football must invest more on mental health ahead of Hull City player’s hearing

Jake Livermore’s ordeal shows the psychological distress endured by those coping with a personal tragedy. The midfielder is now facing a lengthy ban for failing a drugs test but Anna-Louise Adams argues we should treat him with compassion – not a harsh punishment.

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Hull City’s Jake Livermore is due to appear at a hearing at the end of August, where he could be banned for up to two years after he tested positive for cocaine in April.

Steve Bruce has admitted Livermore was in a “dark place” when he took the class A drug. The Hull boss has also added that he hopes the FA takes into account the midfielder’s personal situations before making their decision. It is believed that the night the 25-year-old took the drug came days after he learned the outcome of the inquest into his child’s death.

While taking class A drugs cannot be condoned, the footballing world has a duty of care to its players, and must try and understand the circumstances completely before doling out any harsh punishment.

Perhaps, though, some good could come out of this hearing – the idea that clubs could be doing more to offer personal support to their players. There is a myth that if you’re a Premier League or Championship footballer, then you’ve got it all. You’re playing football week in, week out, getting paid tens of thousands to do what you love, and you’ve got nothing to complain about.

This mindset needs to end. At the end of the day, footballers are human beings. Strip away the football and the money, they are the same human beings with complex emotional systems like you and I. While the football club will look after them financially, and keep their physic in tip-top condition, it could be argued that the football industry should be doing more to provide care for their mental health as well.

A footballer facing mental health issues is not an alien matter. Craig Bellamy details some of the psychological problems he experienced in the game in his autobiography GoodFella, and Clarke Carlisle’s battle with mental illness has been widely documented throughout the media. While the tragic deaths of Robert Enke and Gary Speed are indicators that there are demons to be dealt with before it consumes lives.

I believe it is completely fair to ask clubs whether they are doing enough for our players. Remember, Livermore is still only 25 – a young man who has dealt with a devastating loss. Taking cocaine on a night out is never the right answer, but, at the time, maybe it was the only thing that seemed to provide solace. Circumstances must be taken into account that a professional athlete would not take such a drug if they were in the right state of mind.

It’s important to remember that this is a one-off offence, if Livermore had failed a drugs test prior to this, the situation would be undeniably worse. But the personal circumstances of the case more than likely play a mitigating factor in his decision.

Personally, I think two years is a harsh ban and don’t see what good it will do other than have made an example out of a player. At this point in time, the last thing Livermore needs is to be banned from the game which he has probably used as an outlet for the emotions he was feeling last year.

I think a better option would be to offer further education to players about the implications of drug use, and to offer better psychological support for players at all times – not just when devastation strikes. The high pressure nature of football, and indeed, sport makes it important that athletes are aware there are people they can turn to for help.

Follow @annalouiseadams

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