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  • Alex Mills

Sporting Chance CEO Colin Bland Awarded MBE

Sporting Chance CEO, Colin Bland has been awarded an MBE as part of King Charles’ first Birthday Honours List, for services to sport.

Taking up his current role in particularly difficult circumstances following the death of the charity’s first CEO Peter Kay, Colin has overseen the continued growth and development of Sporting Chance over the last ten years to become the world’s leading provider of mental health support and education for current and former professional athletes.

Set up in the year 2000 as a residential addiction facility exclusively for professional footballers, the modern-day charity also operates a network of over 250 counsellors and psychotherapists across the UK to help athletes with a wide range of presenting issues. As a result of Colin’s stewardship, the charity now has contractual agreements in place with 19 different stakeholders representing sports from horseracing and cricket to darts and snooker and has also established a Benevolent Fund to support athletes who are unable to access mental health services through their own sport.

One of Colin’s stand-out achievements over the course of the last decade is the continued development of that network of counsellors and psychotherapists, giving the charity the ability to help the large number of athletes struggling with issues other than addictive disorders. In 2023, the number of people engaging with Sporting Chance will be counted in the thousands, either through direct therapeutic intervention or through educational programmes. It is true to say that the growth of Sporting Chance in recent years has saved many lives and improved countless more and Colin has played a hugely important role in making this a reality.

A leading voice within the space of professional athlete welfare, Colin has undoubtedly helped to build consensus within the industry around the need for improved provision for mental health and wellbeing and for the creation and development of safe, confidential structures to encourage athletes to take up support. No better evidence of Colin’s standing in this working community can be found than in Sporting Chance’s invitation to partner in the FA’s ‘Heads Up’ campaign in 2019, led by The Duke of Cambridge and with the express purpose of making football a more mentally healthy sport.

It would be a poor summary of Colin’s contribution to the charity to date if it failed to note his part in the response to revelations of historic sexual abuse within football in 2016. Colin ensured that Sporting Chance was able to work with all its footballing stakeholders to quickly put in place an expert and accessible support network for hundreds of people in need of specialist talking therapy, many of whom who would then go on to take part in high profile legal cases. Under Colin’s leadership, Sporting Chance built a bespoke network of trauma-trained specialist counsellors in less than six weeks. Six years on, this service continues to support adult survivors of historic sexual abuse in football.

The Covid pandemic created unprecedented demand for mental health support amongst athletes and support staff alike. Under Colin’s direction Sporting Chance was able to put provision in place for many individuals who had not had access to this kind of support before lockdown, whilst ensuring that the service remained affordable. The legacy of his and team’s efforts during that period can be seen in the organisations that have retained the charity’s services in a post-pandemic world.

At a time in history when the subject of mental health in wider society, not just in sport, is being discussed more than ever, the importance of solutions that tangibly address poor mental health in the athlete population, rather than quick fixes or token gestures, has become ever more apparent. The evolution and promotion of these solutions has been central to Colin’s leadership of Sporting Chance and will continue to drive the organisation in the years ahead.


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