Three quarters of Australian footballers are concerned about their future as professionals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, global research reveals.

A report on the mental health of footballers during COVID-19 conducted by Professional Footballers Australia (the PFA) in association with FIFPro, the global representative body for professional footballers, reveals a disturbing spike in anxiety and depression across Australian footballers.

The report, Mental health symptoms in professional football during the coronavirus (COVID-19) global crisis, involved over 150 Australian players participating in a research study in March and April, conducted by FIFPro’s Chief Medical Officer Vincent Gouttebarge.

The report raised a number of alarming trends:

  • 77 per cent of male and female footballers reported concern about their future as professional footballers;
  • During the COVID-19-enforced football hiatus and Government-enforced isolation, 58 per cent of players reported symptoms of anxiety while 45 per cent of players demonstrated symptoms of depression.

These figures are trending exponentially higher than during regular periods of time, when, for example, moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms peak at about 8 per cent in footballers and are higher than the general population, which peaks at 5 per cent.

“These alarming trends should be a wake-up call and should rightly reframe the focus of COVID-19 on football from economic impacts to the human and health impacts,” PFA Chief Executive John Didulica said.

“Amplifying the challenges inherent in COVID-19 is uncertainty. We are all aware that the future economics of the sport will shift and that we all need to adapt to that. However, what shouldn’t change is a commitment to supporting our people – and the current uncertainty is central to the increased mental health challenges being experienced by players.”

The PFA undertakes regular monitoring of player health and wellbeing, with the players across the A-League and W-League most recently completing a comprehensive study in January.

Since the impact of COVID-19 on football, the PFA has delivered 1,992 wellbeing check-ins with players centred on financial distress, anxiety over their futures, impact of isolation and impact on loved ones as a result of loss of work.

The PFA delivers expert wellbeing support services to all members and provides wellbeing education to all A-League, Y-League and W-League players through the creation of its Player Development Program through its Collective Bargaining Agreement with FFA.