Cross-sector partnership – Everton FC & Mersey Care (ARCHIVED)

Everton in the Community’s pioneering provision to tackle social and economic challenges facing Merseyside would not be possible without reliable cross-sector partnerships. Our long-standing collaboration with Mersey Care NHS Trust was the first cross-sector partnership to deliver a non-traditional health pathway as a distinct alternative to conventional medical recovery models NHS Trusts delivered. This partnership is now underpinned by academic rigour embedded into delivery by Edge Hill University.


  • From start: Yes
  • During process: Yes
  • In evaluation: No


  • Peer: Yes
  • Academic: No
  • PP Collaborative: Yes

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What We Did

In 2008, Mersey Care NHS Trust funded Imagine Your Goals (IYG) to recruit the first full- time mental health coordinator to be employed by a professional football club, establish a number of weekly training sessions engaging 200 participants referred from Mersey Care NHS Trust, and establish Merseyside’s first ever mental health football league. A Social Return on Investment analysis conducted in 2013 on the programme demonstrated a return of £3.22 for every £1 invested by the NHS.

IYG was subsequently adopted by 15 other Premier League clubs and this national roll-out was facilitated by EitC, with over 3,500 participants now benefiting from the scheme which still continues. Other football league clubs also now have dedicated programmes which address mental health promotion based upon the work originally developed by EitC. As a member of the European Football Development Network, EitC endeavours to promote its best practice in mental health to other European clubs, and in 2015 presented its work to the 16 other members of the Network who attended its annual conference at Manchester United Foundation.

Building on the success of IYG, a further four projects have been created through the partnership to engage individuals with mental health participants referred by Mersey Care NHS Trust.
Our employment project, Employ New Tactics, aims to boost confidence, motivation and self-esteem, overcome barriers to employment whilst improving communication and team work with CV and interview workshops. Support is also provided with seeking job vacancies, work experience and volunteering opportunities.

January 2013 saw collaboration on an innovative new programme to support people with dementia. There are 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK and by 2021 this number is set to rise to over one million. Pass on the Memories, which is run for patients with memory loss and their carers, uses a range of interventions, including sporting reminiscence workshops, custom-made life story memory books and calendars, day trips to local places of interest and social activities, to help people to share important memories and create new ones.

One particular tool used in the sessions is an audio CD containing interviews and stories from past Everton players, including Dixie Dean and Graeme Sharp.

The project is supporting Liverpool City Council’s Year of Dementia Awareness campaign, which aims to develop an understanding and awareness of Dementia and work towards creating Dementia friendly environments. In August 2013, Goodison Park became the first sports stadium in the country to be considered a ‘Dementia Friendly Place’ by the Dementia Action Alliance.

Healthy Blues is a weekly exercise programme specifically designed to cater for the physical, technical, social and emotional needs for males over the age 40 providing a range of sports including table tennis, badminton, indoor bowls and basketball.
The specific aims of the initiative are to increase individual levels of confidence, self- esteem and to reduce body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure, with dedicated members of EitC providing expert one-to-one care for each participant. Individuals engaging on the programme are able to access a gymnasium located at Goodison Park and is again ran by dedicated and highly-trained staff.

In 2014, a dedicated female project, Girls Onside, was created to support participants with social and emotional needs by facilitating social capital opportunities through a range of provision such as cooking courses, physical activity sessions, pampering courses and arts classes.

The People’s Family Project (PFP) was created in February 2014 aimed at families with children aged between 3 and 11 years old, living within a one mile radius of Goodison Park. The PFP provides families with opportunities to enhance their understanding of health and make positive health changes by engaging in a range of sessions including: gym sessions, walking, cycling, yoga, family fun, health education workshops and cook and taste sessions. To maximise engagement, families are encouraged to attend sessions which appeal to them and fit into their lifestyles.

To date 61 families have engaged with the project and 10 families (28 people) engaged with, and completed, a 12-week course of sessions with some participants attending 58 of a possible 68 sessions. Results investigating the impact of the project on health behaviours demonstrated a significant impact on parental mental health and parental overall dietary quality up to 12 months after completion of the project.

Case Study – Susan attended the sessions with her 10-year-old daughter. During the intervention period Susan was 48-years-old, unemployed (associated with existing health conditions), educated to GCSE level and lived with her partner of 14 years in a privately rented property. She also has a 21-year-old son from a previous relationship who still lives at home. Susan suffered from arthritis in her knees and was also diagnosed with depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. These conditions often prevented her from taking part in activities on her own and with her daughter. Before beginning the project, Susan’s Body Mass Index was 44.6, classifying her as obese. However, in the first 12 weeks of engaging in the PFP, Susan lost 9.12kg reducing her BMI by 3.6. After 12 months, Susan lost another 10.4kg, which took her total weight loss during the programme to 36.22kg.

Susan also increased her weekly engagement in physical activity by 53.83 minutes and improved her dietary quality which she attributed to the programme’s structure and encouragement and motivation she had received from staff. Now, Susan says that her healthy eating and food choices had become part of her everyday life: ‘I don’t even think about it, to be honest. It’s just natural. It just comes natural now. I’d sooner go for an apple than a packet of crisps. ’During and after the project, Susan volunteered on other EitC projects such as Girls on Side and Tackling the Blues. In October 2015, Susan was offered a casual staff position at EitC and is now a valued member of the staff team.

Delivered since January 2015, Tackling the Blues is an early intervention sport, physical activity and education-based programme involving young people who are identified as experiencing, or are at risk of, developing mental illness. It is delivered in a context of increasing mental illness among young people, its impact on health, and the associated workplace pressures on head teachers, teachers and carers who work with mentally ill young people. The programme offers a range of interactive and engaging activities to recruit young people who, once engaged, participate in tailored educational and peer-led activities to tackle experiences of conditions associated with mental illness, and increase awareness of mental health.

Tackling the Blues delivers 12 one hour weekly sessions across 10 primary schools, secondary schools, and young carer groups throughout Sefton and Merseyside with plans to expand delivery further into Merseyside and Lancashire in the near future. As of January 2016, Tackling the Blues had delivered 227 one hour physical activity or educational workshop sessions to 257 6-15-year-olds. 25 young people have also so far achieving a qualification in Healthier Food and Special Diets.

During a visit by the Shadow Secretary of State for Mental Health, Luciana Berger MP, Tackling the Blues was described as ‘very impressive’ in its impact on young people’s lives and features on the Minister’s blog (

Case Study – 
Emily is a Year 10 student, who is 14 years old and attends Tackling the Blues sessions once a week. Emily has caring responsibilities for her mother while attending school. Before engaging with Tackling the Blues, Emily had been identified as self-harming due to low self-confidence and self-esteem, and had previously received counselling for this. In addition, Emily felt stressed with school exams. While engaging with Tackling the Blues, Emily has had “more good days than bad” and has engaged in regular exercise to keep in shape. She has enjoyed spending more time with her friends who also attend the sessions, has learnt to value herself more, and has been able to open up to her parents about her feelings and concerns about body image or pressures of school. Moving forward, Emily is going to continue attending Tackling the Blues and to engage with her counselling sessions, and feels that “when things haven’t been so good, the Tackling the Blue sessions have been the one constant positive”.

Active Blues, funded by Sport England, was launched in June 2015 and is a community- focused project which enables currently inactive men aged 35-50-years-old to become physically active at least once per week through participation in sport. It is based in North Liverpool and aimed at enabling men to adopt healthier lifestyle and reduce health inequalities that can lead to type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions, obesity, isolation and loneliness, poor mental health and cardiovascular disease. Active Blues delivers a range of free weekly sessions including angling, walking football, hiking, cycling, golf, yoga and gym sessions at a range of local venues.

Active Blues held a very successful launch event, ‘Lads Night In’ where over 120 people turned out to see former Everton players Pat Van Den Hauwe, Kevin Sheedy and Stuart Barlow who spoke about their football experiences alongside promoting the Active Blues project and the importance of being physically active. The event was then used as a platform for offering a pathway into the weekly sport sessions.

Wider Active Support

Everton in the Community’s pioneering provision to tackle social and economic challenges facing Merseyside would not be possible without reliable cross-sector partnerships. Our long-standing collaboration with Mersey Care NHS Trust was the first cross-sector partnership to deliver a non-traditional health pathway as a distinct alternative to conventional medical recovery models NHS Trusts delivered. This partnership is now underpinned by academic rigour embedded into delivery by Edge Hill University.


Case Study – 
Kenny was informed about the Active Blues programme by his GP, who felt it would be beneficial for him to increase his physical activity. Kenny was experiencing difficulties performing daily tasks due to a lack of energy and strength, while becoming breathless. Kenny was also identified as obese, became socially isolated and had low self-confidence, and eventually became unemployed and moved home to live with his mother. His mental health then began to deteriorate and he started to experience depression.

Kenny started attending walking football sessions, which enabled him to build new friendships with other similar men. Over the last 6 months Kenny has improved his fitness and reduced his BMI which has allowed him to engage in other Active Blues sport sessions. He has attended park walks and golf, and has now begun gym sessions. This has helped improve his motivation and diet, and reported increases in self-confidence and self-esteem. Kenny now aspires to become part of the volunteer scheme at EitC to help others on the programme.

Looking Back/Challenges Faced

Upon hindsight we would have placed a greater emphasis on the process of sharing our challenges, success stories and learnings with other like-minded stakeholders with a view to modelling best practice and encouraging other similar organisations to consider adopting a similar approach relevant to their context.

We have, however, managed to do some level of sharing with Fulham FC and Kingston University which came on the back of presenting at the European Football Development Network conference. We would consider producing a partner brochure to enable the messages of why, what and how we have managed to develop this triangular partnership to greater number and impact.

Everton in the Community is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the people living on Merseyside and delivers many responsive and multi-dimensional programmes that tackle a range of identified and emerging public health challenges.

In light of current funding cuts and increased competition, it has been the strength and diversity of this unique partnership that has reacted accordingly and demonstrated the added value this type of partnership can offer. Within the 2015-2016 this partnership has secured approximately £700.000 in funding from various agencies and commissioners.


The future for the partnership has been strengthened significantly following the introduction of Edge Hill University (Times Higher Education ‘University of the Year’ 2014) to provide independent monitoring and evaluation of our work, and broaden its impact ( In association with EitC, the University is launching a new MSc Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health programme in September 2015, which will be the first of its kind and will provide accredited CPD training modules and annual dissemination and sharing best practice workshops/conferences based on work undertaken with EitC.

In addition, a dedicated Centre for Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health Research is planned to undertake and facilitate the production of high quality, publicly engaged and policy relevant research which advances international understanding of the links between sport, physical activity and mental health. The Centre brings together academics, practitioners, policy makers, representatives of sports bodies, service users, those with mental illness, and the public, private and voluntary sectors to inform policy and practice to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and their communities.


Working alongside a number of key regional and national health agencies and partners, the charity delivers many targeted health-intervention programmes aimed at promoting positive lifestyle choices and promoting the quality of life for some of the most hard-to- reach groups in Liverpool.

During the previous 12 months, over 10,000 people have engaged with our Health and Wellbeing Programme including individuals with complex and multiple health needs. In excess of 400 people have visited Goodison Park to be screened for a health condition such as abdominal aortic aneurysm, atrial fibrillation, sudden cardiac arrest or a NHS Health Check. This has resulted in more than 50 previously undiagnosed conditions being identified.


Invitations to EitC and Mersey Care NHS Trust staff to visit Whitehall to meet the Former Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb, to advise him on the impact of our work around mental health and dementia, while highlighting how other sports clubs could develop the same schemes, are among the other endorsements of our innovative approach to cross- partnership working.


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