Friends and colleagues of former Yeovil Town captain Lee Collins have called for “an extensive review” of support given to players.
An open letter sent to Maheta Molango, the recently-appointed chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), claims the players’ union has failed to respond to the rise in mental health issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It calls for the PFA to fund wellbeing officers at all member clubs, improve aftercare for retiring players and to provide death-in-service benefits to all members, regardless of which league they play in, according to a report by Sky Sports.
Lee, who made nearly 40 appearances in two years at Huish Park, was found dead in his hotel room in March and last month a coroner ruled the Glovers’ club captain had tragically taken his own life. He was 32 years old.
Today, a memorial match is being played between Congleton Town and an All-Stars team of one of Lee’s former clubs, Port Vale, at the North West Counties’ League side to celebrate his life and raise awareness of the issues of mental illness.
In the open letter, Lee’s friends and former colleagues call on the PFA to improve its support for players feeling the sport who “are being left to sink or swim in a world they do not have the qualifications or life experiences to survive in” and appoint well-being officers at every League club.
It also said the surviving spouse of chosen beneficiary of any PFA member should “receive 100% of their total PFA contributions and the death in service benefits will remain in place, irrelevant of which division they are competing in at the time of death.”
It’s time for change. @PFA
As friends and colleagues of Lee Collins, we are asking for an extensive review of the player welfare, mental health, post-retirement support and death in service benefits being offered to PFA members.#LeeCollins #MoreSupport pic.twitter.com/bLbgqKMcWo
— Joe Davis (@JoeDavis6) August 22, 2021
Sky Sports has spoken with Lee’s partner, Rachel Gibbons, who said: “They’re not these big fancy superstars that earn mega bucks, these are just regular guys.
“They could live next door to you. More needs to be done with those in particular. For Lee, he lived within his wage packet, so he didn’t have a big nest egg of savings to fall back on.
“Football in general needs to be more proactive in helping those footballers, rather than what they are at the moment which is reactive.
“What happened to Lee is the worst possible scenario and obviously everything has been reactive to that. If there’s things in place beforehand, be proactive – that’s what these footballers, these men need.”
In response to the open letter and the interview with Rachel, the PFA issued a statement saying: “Our thoughts remain with Lee’s family, friends and team-mates and we will continue to offer our support to all those affected by Lee’s passing.
“Professional football can be a challenging career and we have identified a wide range of football-specific areas that can adversely impact a player’s mental health. Career transition – whether through retirement, injury or release – is a particularly difficult time for players and their families.
“We are committed to continually improving our education and wellbeing support, which also includes evaluating the way football as a whole supports players.
“Any members who need support with their mental health, including issues both inside and outside of football, can contact us on our 24/7 helpline on 07500 000777 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The proceeds of today’s match will go to Lee’s family and you can donate to the cause via a Crowdfunder page – here.
If you need to speak with someone, Somerset Mind has a 24/7 telephone hotline – call 01823 276 892.