EPIC and Chelsea combine to hit five

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EPIC Risk Management joined forces with Chelsea FC Foundation to achieve a unique first of delivering our gambling harm awareness education to five schools in the same geographic area concurrently.

As part of the 'Chelsea Champions' initiative delivered by the official charity of the leading Premier League football club, five EPIC facilitators joined the bill alongside Chelsea FC Academy players and Chelsea FC Foundation coaches to deliver an afternoon of mental health and wellbeing workshops at secondary schools across the south-east.

The EPIC quintet all made journeys to schools regularly served by the foundation, with Scott Davies, Patrick Foster and Andy Margett each visiting schools within a stone's throw of the club's Stamford Bridge stadium - Chelsea Academy, Fulham Cross Academy and Fulham Boys' School respectively - while Paul Findlay MBE travelled to Thomas Bennett Community College in Crawley and Marc Williams made his way to Merstham Park School in Redhill.

All five, who have lived experience of gambling harm, shared their back story with the teenage audiences present, speaking alongside Chelsea’s potential stars of the future, with a handful at each school explaining their story of how they broke into the game and some of the challenges they have had to overcome throughout their school days. Of particular note on the day was the contribution of attacking full-back Noah Hay, who returned to his former school, Chelsea Academy, and was able to relay the benefits of being part of the Chelsea Champions programme and other projects delivered by the Foundation while he studied there.

There was also time for some welcome football activity at each of the venues with sports facilities, thanks to the Chelsea FC Foundation coaches teaming up with the Academy players to put on fun sessions for the pupils.

“It's great to be able to utilise and work alongside EPIC, using their real-life experiences, which I think has really touched and brought a lot home to the students,” admitted Jonny Drabble, senior project officer for the Chelsea Champions project delivered by Chelsea FC Foundation.

“The facilitators spoke really well and passionately, and I think anything like that that adds that extra value.

“Speaking to a lot of the young people, I think it has raised a few eyebrows and hopefully that'll encourage some positive conversations, raising the importance of talking and knowing who to speak to and share those problems.

“We have an officer that works full-time in the school, so hopefully EPIC's message can encourage those positive conversations to keep going in the schools.”

The positive reaction was reciprocated by EPIC’s programme facilitator Scott Davies, who came through the Academy at Reading FC, and could therefore empathise with the unique challenge for the Chelsea FC Academy players in standing up and talking in front of fellow teenagers, rather than their usual chance to express themselves on the pitch. He explained:

“It's massively admirable; I never did it when I was younger. I think media training like this, ahead of going and doing interviews when you're older in your career, is massively important.

“You want to get it right and there's a lot of scrutiny around it now, and I think that talking in front of students at schools will only benefit them in the long run.

“It’s massively important for younger people listening if people like myself and the scholars start talking about problems that they might be facing in their lives, and how we can combat those.

“It's a great initiative that Chelsea FC Foundation and the club’s Academy have put on; we're delighted to be involved.”