FA Cup final to be renamed as part of mental health awareness initiative spearheaded by Prince William


This year’s FA Cup final will be renamed as part of a mental health awareness initiative led by Prince William, it was announced on Thursday.

The showpiece match, which was originally scheduled for 23 May, is set to take place at Wembley Stadium on 1 August due to a coronavirus-enforced delay. It will be called the ‘Heads Up FA Cup Final’.

Dates for the competition’s quarter-finals were also announced this week, with Norwich hosting Manchester United on 27 June in the first tie. On 28 June, Arsenal travel to face Sheffield United, Chelsea visit Leicester, and Newcastle host Manchester City.

As part of the Heads Up campaign, the Duke of Cambridge spoke to Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta and club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang about the importance of emphasising mental health as the FA Cup and Premier League return this month.

“We’re going to really use the final as a moment to promote good, positive mental health for everyone,” Prince William said. “It’s quite timely, bearing in mind what we’ve all been through with this pandemic.

“I think there’s going to be, sadly, a lot of repercussions from this in society, not just in football, in terms of people’s mental health. Hopefully the FA Cup can be a bit of a pivot that people can rally around.”

Discussing players’ mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, Arteta – who had Covid-19 in March – said: “You have to create a safe environment for them to be able to talk to you directly without feeling judged, or [worrying] whether that’s going to have consequences for them – whether they’re going to play or not, or my feelings towards them.

“This is what I’ve been trying to do over the last twelve weeks, by trying to talk individually so they can raise those feelings, their issues, and we can build the club culture that I want, which is based on respect.”

On supporting team-mates with their mental health, Arsenal captain Aubameyang said: “I think the most important thing is to be next to them, to try to speak a lot with them, [and] to give them all the space they need for talking, because I think the best thing is to talk and to discuss problems.”

The Duke of Cambridge (bottom right) spoke to Arsenal players about mental health (Kensington Palace)

Arsenal’s academy manager and former Gunner Per Mertesacker also joined the discussion to talk about his mental health during his playing career.

“I was not comfortable speaking with certain individuals, because I thought I needed to be strong, resistant and resilient, and deal with any kind of circumstances,” the former Germany international said.

“Nowadays, there are more mechanisms than ever to start a conversation and to give players tools to really cope with it.”

Godric Smith, Chair of the Heads Up campaign, said: “We are extremely grateful to The FA and to [competition sponsors] Emirates for this unprecedented gesture of support. Dedicating the final of football’s most iconic domestic cup competition to Heads Up is a huge statement about the importance of mental health and their commitment to it.

“Given the many different impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that we talk about our mental health and help support one another, and the Heads Up FA Cup Final will hopefully generate many more of those conversations amongst fans and the football community.”


Leave a Response