Support for football focused mental wellbeing programme

15th May 2024

A programme which uses football to promote mental health and wellbeing has received additional funding from Scottish Government.

The Changing Room - Extra Time initiative has been awarded £100,000 for a fourth year.

It builds on The Changing Room - a 12-week programme which takes place at football stadiums across Scotland and supports men to open up as they participate in walking football games, stadium tours, pitch-side walks and talks from a motivational speaker.

Extra Time aims to give people the chance to speak in more depth about their mental wellbeing and explore areas which are giving them particular challenges or concerns.

The programme is delivered by SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health) in partnership with the SPFL Trust and associated community trusts at Aberdeen (AFC Community Trust), Rangers (Rangers Charity Foundation), Heart of Midlothian (Big Hearts) and Hibernian (Hibernian Community Foundation) football clubs.

Health Secretary Neil Gray, who visited the initiative at Pittodrie, home of Aberdeen FC as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, said: “We know that it’s never been more important to look after our physical and mental wellbeing. It is pleasing to see this initiative go into its fourth year and to hear that it really is making a difference to people’s lives.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about how we are feeling and this project has really helped people open up about their mental health.”

Billy Watson, Chief Executive at SAMH said: “The Changing Room - Extra Time project changes lives. It builds confidence, helps get relationships on the right track and it has even saved lives.

“Football and mental health are a great match. What this project shows is that football fans are not just comfortable talking about their mental health, they’re really keen to do so – as long as it’s in the right place. The Changing Room - Extra Time is the right place and we’re really grateful that the Scottish Government has agreed to continue to fund it.”

Kyle Hewitt, 37, from Dyce attended Changing Room Extra Time at Aberdeen FC and said: "I grew up aware of mental health and its potential impacts on people and those around them because of my own experience. But sometimes I didn’t feel like I had the ability to face the world. I had low moments as a parent and a husband, I wasn’t always nice to be around, and I could be hyper-critical of myself.

“Then I embarked on a journey through Extra Time with like-minded men and amazing facilitators from SAMH. I realised I had been deflecting, avoiding and bottling things up. I was able to give myself credit for what I was doing. I also became more resilient, and better at creating positive habits and finding ways to change my outlook and mind-set. I have thrived as a result.”

Aberdeen Community Trust Chief Executive Liz Bowie said: “We are delighted to deliver the Changing Room Extra Time programme at Aberdeen FC Community Trust, working in partnership with SAMH and the SPFL Trust. We have learned so much through the support of SAMH, which has ensured that our staff are appropriately trained and mentored to provide excellent support to the men who participate in this initiative. 

"We have seen amazing results and crucially have watched strong, supportive networks build amongst the participants which extend well beyond the term of the course itself. Football is a force for good and is so powerful in encouraging men to talk and open up to each other in support of their mental wellbeing.”

The Changing Room - Extra Time has received £400,000 from the Scottish Government since it was established in 2021.

The Changing Room, which is funded by Movember and supported by the Scottish Professional Football League Trust (SPFL Trust), was first created in 2018 at Hibernian Football Club, and rolled out to Heart of Midlothian Football Club later that year.


Pictured from left to right: Liz Bowie, Billy Watson, Neil Gray and Kyle Hewitt