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Footballer with foot on ball

A new app which uses football as a theme to provide positive resources and support for vulnerable groups including the young and the homeless has been launched by the Street Soccer Foundation, a charity run by ex-football player Keith Mabbutt.

Called matchFit, the app acts as a simple signpost for vulnerable people feeling low, and contains articles, quotes, a mood tracker, wellbeing tips and insights.

Experts at the University of Birmingham’s SPRINT project provided evidence-based resources for the app, drawing on their extensive expertise supporting the wellbeing of young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“There has never been a more important time to focus on our mental health and we are delighted to be one of the partners involved in the matchFit app,” says Dr Mary Quinton, a Research Fellow in Sport Psychology in the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Created specifically for those suffering from mental health problems, matchFit launches following World Mental Health Day and World Homelessness Day, both of which took place on 10 October 2020.

Videos feature advice from the likes of Gary Lineker, Kevin Campbell, George Elokobi, Rachel Yankey (former England footballer), Jeremy Snape (former England cricketer) and current England international Tyrone Mings, who was himself homeless before his career in football. Users can also interact with one another in a dedicated newsfeed.

Intended for use year-round and championed by homeless charity Shelter, a key partner to matchFit; it comes at a moment of particular stress for much of the UK, with the ONS reporting that depression rates have doubled since the onset of the virus.

In their Active Lives Survey, Sport England found that 25% of people over 16 went to see at least two live sporting events in 2019. With live sport unlikely to resume until 2021, these numbers have been slashed from 11.4million active spectators to zero. Televised football was also paused for five months at the height of lockdown.

Last year’s study found that 4.4% of the population played football at least twice a week - that’s 2.2 million people playing for two hours every seven days. Since football play was put on hold completely between the end of March and the end of July 2020 – with many individuals still now opting out of meeting in teams - the charity predicts that some 64 million hours of play has been lost due to the pandemic.

Active adults are less likely to feel lonely, the Sport England study found, and with such a staggering loss of potential social and active time, The Street Soccer Foundation and its ambassadors are concerned for the mental health of the nation’s football lovers.

"Since the start of Coronavirus, the rate of depression has doubled, especially amongst the young, and there is no doubt in my mind that the lack of physical sports such as football has contributed to this increasingly high rate. This is why we wanted to create matchFit - a simple reference app which is easy to navigate and can help anyone at any time suffering with mental health issues. This is a true coming together of people wanting and being able to help others because no-one should suffer alone." says Keith Mabbutt, CEO of The Street Soccer Foundation and originator of matchFit.

matchFit has been designed by London tech providers Second Screen. The agency is at the heart of the campaign to inform and inspire vulnerable young people, ensuring the app is accessible to football fans and communities nationwide.

The app is available for download on iPhone and Android.

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