Professional footballers accessed a record number of individual confidential counselling sessions during the 2020/21 football season.

Over 190 sessions were accessed through the PFA’s national referral network, which has been developed as part of the PFA’s Player Development Program with partner The Mind Room, who specialise in psychology, wellbeing, and performance.

The increase in access to the network reflects a growing trend of players accessing confidential counselling sessions over the past five years – illustrating the increasing willingness of players to seek support when needed. 

Ensuring players have confidential access to experts that can provide support in a variety of areas including anxiety, depression, relationship breakdown and addiction, the network has provided over 692 consultations since its establishment in 2015. 

With Australian football not immune to the immense challenges posed by COVID-19 to all industries and players across globe, PFA Executive and former Newcastle Jets Captain Nigel Boogaard said the importance of the PFA Player Development Program was evident. 

“As players we are incredibly proud of the support we are able to provide to each other through the Player Development Program and specific support systems such as the mental health referral network,” said Boogaard. 

“Whilst there remains significant work to do, through collective bargaining and in partnership with Football Australia and the APL we have been able to build a program that is now a fundamental aspect of a players’ life. The number of players accessing the services proves it is truly invaluable.” 

PFA Player Development Program Manager Rita Mankowska said it was encouraging players were accessing resources available to them.

“The past 18 months has been incredibly difficult for everyone connected to the game and whilst we are confident we are now rebuilding the sport, the careers of our members remain incredibly short-term and precarious,” said Mankowska. 

“With over 40% of A-League players set to be off contract as of July 1 and W-League players continuing to have to manage a variety of commitments, it is vital that they have continuity of care and know where to turn. 

“As such it is incredibly encouraging that increasing numbers of players feel confident enough to step forward and ask for the support when it is needed and that we are able to ensure it is confidential and delivered by an expert.”

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 Football Australia (FA) and the Australian Professional Leagues (APL).

To access the PFA Mental Health Referral Network contact your Player Development Manager or the Player Development Program Manager, Rita Mankowska, via