Colin Bland receives his MBE at Windsor Castle
This Addiction Awareness Week, we are thrilled to extend our congratulations to our CEO, Colin Bland, who received his MBE at Windsor Castle on Wednesday for his outstanding contributions to sport. This prestigious honour reflects not only his unwavering commitment but the critical role that mental health and addiction awareness play in the world of professional sport.
Colin, an integral representative of Sporting Chance, assumed the role of CEO in 2012. Since then, he has implemented invaluable systems and structures that are instrumental in executing our vision: "When any sportsperson has the courage to reach out for help, there needs to be a professional and safe place for them to go. Sporting Chance can be that place." This vision serves as the cornerstone of the charity and has influenced its growth to become what it is today.
Rewind to the year 2000, when Sporting Chance began as a residential addiction facility exclusively for professional footballers. 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.
Colin has over twenty-five years’ experience of delivering mental health and addiction services to hard to reach groups. His work prior to Sporting Chance included establishing clean housing for those who found themselves homeless and wanted recovery from addiction recovery and he opened the only residential treatment facility in the country for men leaving prison.
As we commemorate Colin's achievements, we are reminded of the significance of Addiction Awareness Week. Our residential clinic remains the only facility in the world designed for sportspeople struggling with addictive disorders, specifically problematic behaviour relating to gambling, alcohol, and other drugs. This week is a crucial opportunity to raise awareness about the profound impact of addiction in the world of sport and realising addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their background, and professional athletes are no different.
Our clinic continues to provide a private and professional environment to equip athletes with the tools they need to overcome addiction and regain control of their lives.
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 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.
Let’s not forget 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 provisions in place for many individuals who had not had access to this kind of support before the lockdown whilst ensuring that the service remained affordable. The legacy of his and his team’s efforts during that period can be seen in the organisations that have retained the charity’s services in a post-pandemic world.
Colin is a humble leader whose mantra is “I cant – We can” he has built a staff team of exceptional qualification and experience and simply asks that “we do the next right thing”
At a time in history when the subject of mental health, 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 significantly apparent. And it is the evolution and promotion of these solutions that have been central to Colin’s leadership of Sporting Chance and will continue to drive the organisation in the years ahead, as Colin Bland, MBE.