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New charity supports sportspeople to transition out of sport

The Switch the Play Foundation, an organisation dedicated to supporting sportspeople from all sports to successfully transition out of sport, has won charitable status.

Set up in 2014 as a social enterprise, Switch the Play is run by a team of sport specialists and former sportspeople including Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle MBE and former England and Leicester Tigers rugby union player, Leon Lloyd.

Evidence shows that leaving a life in sport can be really tough. Reports of a loss of identity, a lack of purpose and financial and mental health struggles are sadly all too common and until recently there was very little professional support available.

Research by the BBC and the Professional Players Federation has found 95 per cent of players need to work full time after their playing career ends and more than half of former professional sportspeople have had concerns about their mental or emotional wellbeing since retiring. More than half of those who played sport professionally reported financial difficulties in the five years after stopping playing.

Leon Lloyd, CEO of Switch the Play, said:

A sports person’s career is incredibly short. In fact, it can all end before it’s really begun. Think about the 17-year-old professional footballer who doesn’t get offered a contract into the senior team. Or the rugby player being forced to turn semi-professional due to a cut in funding.

The lucky ones will retire at the natural end of their sporting life in their 30s but even then, they’ve still got another 40 years ahead of them. That’s a long time to fill when everything you’ve ever known, the way you’ve structured your whole adult life and the career that’s defined you has suddenly gone. Whenever it happens, retirement can be difficult and we’ve seen high profile cases of sportspeople suffering from depression and turning to alcohol or gambling when their career ends and the support vanishes.

Gaining charity status will allow Switch the Play to access funds to subsidise training and development programmes designed to help sportspeople prepare for that switch out of sport and to fulfil their potential. The charity plans to offer bursaries to sportspeople looking to retrain and will also fund research projects into the field of duty of care in sport and sport transition.

Beth Tweddle, Switch the Play Trustee, said:

We know that transition out of sport if done right can be a positive and fulfilling experience. Thanks to the charity status, Switch the Play can now work with more sportspeople, clubs and governing bodies to help athletes and players prepare for transition and create a successful life outside of sport.

Paul Reid, former professional football and now Academy Director at Sunderland AFC, completed a mentoring programme with Switch the Play when he knew his football playing days were coming to an end. Reid said:

When you are playing the game you love full-time it is so hard to think about the future and life beyond the sport, but in hindsight I do regret not preparing for life after sport much earlier in my career.

I knew that some of my skills, such as teamwork and leadership, would be useful in the workplace. Switch the Play showed me how to apply these to a different career and what steps I needed to take next.

Trustees of the Switch the Play Foundation are: Beth Tweddle MBE; Emma Mason; Chris Brindley MBE; Georgie Dickins; Craig Donaldson; and Steve Mitchell.

Image: London Olympic Stadium, Revolution540, licensed under Creative Commons

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