We operate in many different areas and sports. Please feel free to contact anyone for more information regarding the work that they do.

The last 18 months of sports chaplaincy in Northern Ireland have been a wonderful season of increase. We have seen new chaplains appointed, a regional office established, Steven Thompson becoming support co-ordinator to Phil and myself and we have built a firm partnership with the Danske Bank Premier Football League. Additionally, new doors are opening up in a variety of sports and disability sports. All of this forms a good report, yet it doesn’t tell the full story of life within Sports Chaplaincy NI. Underneath the surface is where we have seen the real increase; a band of chaplains in fellowship, sharing together in vision and values and encouraged by stories of players and clubs openly endorsing the role and exploring faith.

By regularly meeting together we have been able to provide a clearer picture of our role and responsibility as chaplains. Fresh expressions and ideas have emerged inspired by the desire to offer Christ-centred chaplaincy not as a hobby or on-call service but as a consistent and authentic demonstration of pastoral care and witness in the world of Sport. If we are to adventure forth with sports chaplaincy, every step must be supported by prayer with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Phil MitchellPhil Mitchell
Co-Chaplaincy Support Director for Northern Ireland Sport

SCUK ScotlandWe had three Sports Chaplaincy UK chaplains (Steve Jones, Carolyn Skinner and myself ) involved in the Glasgow 2014 Athletes’ Village Religious Services Centre team of twenty four, which was encouraging. With the ongoing legacy of sporting involvement from such successful hostings of the London Olympics / Paralympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games, it is hoped that we will be able to fill new openings for sports chaplaincy in Scotland, with our major involvement in Scottish Football a very positive track record to follow. We are starting to see rugby clubs and local sports clubs showing an interest in the value a chaplain can bring to their players, staff, members and all associated with their clubs.

NeilUrquhartNeil Urquhart
Chaplaincy Support Director in Scottish Sport

It’s great to see what God is doing in Wales and especially in Rugby Union where we have a twofold approach: the blitz defence – trying to provide chaplaincy support to the professional end of the game, and the drift defence – providing at a more local level through local churches. We are seeing God at work in both areas and have chaplains in all 5 regions and 60% of the Premiership. We also recently placed a lady to support the Welsh women’s national side. However we want to see more opportunities to work with the senior teams at regional level and greater involvement with the WRU.

Locally we would like to widen our network across the whole of Wales like that of Ifor Williams who is doing a great job at Gwernyfed Rugby Club. Local sports chaplaincy enables churches to offer Christ’s care and compassion and a way to connect with their communities in being “salt and light”.

The work is so exciting; the fields are white but we need more labourers so please get in touch if you’d like to get involved!

Steve JonesRev Steve Jones
Chaplaincy Support Director for Welsh Sport

Christian sports chaplaincy in the disabled sporting world is growing. The second half of 2013 saw the signing of a formal engagement agreement between Sports Chaplaincy UK and Disability Sport Wales (DSW ), the lead organisation in Wales for the development of sport for disabled people. This was a historic development whereby Sports Chaplaincy UK now provide volunteer chaplaincy support to the athletes in their Academy and High Performance departments.

Practically speaking this has meant two of Sports Chaplaincy UK ’s chaplains, Rev. Dave Hibbin of Ararat Baptist Church and Heather Lewis of Highfields Church, Cardiff both giving a day a week of their time to support the principality’s disabled sports people at their bases in Sophia Gardens and the National Indoor Athletics Centre in Cardiff. It is intended that this model is replicated in North Wales (where DSW have another base ) , and perhaps even further a field.

Sports Chaplaincy UK ’s Chaplaincy Support Director for Scottish Sport, Neil Urquhart, has similarly entered into recent discussions with Scottish Disability Sport. Building on the experience of serving at the London 2012 Paralympics, in July 2013, Steve Jones served as a Chaplain and Interpreter at the International Paralympic Committee’s World Athletics Championships in Lyon, France where he was asked to dedicate his time to supporting Team GB.

Steve also formed part of group from the Swansea Organising Committee charged with the planning and delivery of the International Paralympic Committee’s European Athletics Championships that will be taking place in Wales’ second city from 17th to 24th August 2014. This has resulted in Sports Chaplaincy UK partnering with Swansea University’s Chaplaincy Service to provide a comprehensive sports chaplaincy service to athletes, coaches and their families.

Fit Lives joins the Sports Chaplaincy UK family as we aim to serve gyms:

History: In 1996 a curate in Abingdon called Tim Perry felt God calling him to set up a ministry that would reach people outside the church. He was reminded of Jesus’ own ministry that centred on meeting people where they were, rather than expecting people to come to him. Tim had previously worked in the leisure industry and recognised that health and fitness clubs offered a natural setting in which to meet people and offer something significantly different.  After contacting a number of clubs he began to into one club a couple of times a week.  This soon developed into building bridges with people, discussing deep issues with them, offering lifestyle seminars and running Alpha course.  Time decided to call this programme Fit Lives: helping people be better equipped to live life to the full.

In 2001 Dave Courteen began to get involved in a leadership capacity.  As a managing director of a chain of fitness clubs and a former chair of the Fitness Industry Association, Dave had recognised the potential of Fit Lives. Dave’s standing within the profession and his knowledge of the health and fitness industry has proved invaluable.  Dave will become a Trustees of Sports Chaplaincy UK.

Fit Lives volunteers were essentially gym chaplains.  They are committed to spending regular time in a gym offering pastoral and spiritual support to staff and members.  This can include being a listening ear and chatting with people over a coffee, attending classes in order to build relationships, running lifestyle seminars, organising social events, running Alpha or wellbeing courses.

People go to gyms for more reasons than fitness.  They go because they have body image issues, self-esteem issues, loneliness, going through rehab, health problems and so on.  It has proved to be very valuable to have a Christian intentional presence to scratch beneath the surface and help people through some of the challenging aspects of life and to help them consider a spiritual perspective, and the importance of addressing body, mind and spirit.

Our hope is to see this work expand, to raise up more gym chaplains, and to impact the fitness community across the UK.

Carolyn Skinner

Mark Blythe, Fit Lives Co-ordinator of the Gym Chaplaincy team at Xcel Leisure Complex, Walton on Thames, Surrey. Still working on his weight lifting!

“Key to the chaplain’s appointment and the development of his role, has been the support he received from Sports Chaplaincy UK personnel.” John Bowler, Chairman, Crewe Alexandra F.C

Chaplaincy in professional English football has grown significantly in recent years with there now being chaplains at 2/3rds of the 92 clubs playing in the Premier and Football League.

Chaplains are involved at all levels of their club offering pastoral and spiritual support to people of all faiths and people of no faith.  This involves visiting the football club on a weekly basis and being available beyond that when times of crisis arise or individuals need ongoing support.  On the playing side this may mean supporting a player with a long term injury or helping a young player cope with the disappointment of being released by the club.  For all staff it may include listening to and caring for a member of staff who has recently been bereaved, supporting individuals through a redundancy process or scattering the ashes of a fan at the stadium.

As well as the pastoral nature of a chaplain’s role the spiritual aspect is being embraced by football more and more.   Particularly on the playing side managers and coaches are seeing that this dimension is important for players and the chaplain is able to help in this, whatever the faith of the player.

In November 2009 Matt Baker was appointed as Pastoral Support Director in English Football with the support of the Premier League, Football League Trust and the Professional Footballers’ Association.  Matt’s role is to oversee chaplaincy throughout the English professional leagues offering training, support and encouragement to chaplains at the various clubs.  The national professional bodies are keen to see a chaplain at every club so Matt also looks to persuade clubs of the benefits of chaplaincy where they don’t yet have one as well as assisting clubs in finding the right person.

If you are interested in knowing more about football chaplaincy, either for yourself or a club you represent please contact football@sportschaplaincy.org.uk

For football chaplaincy related news follow @gambettola68 twitter_small

Mark flemingMark Fleming was appointed as official club chaplain to Partick Thistle FC in 1998.  When Mark first started at Firhill, chaplaincy was relatively uncommon in Scottish football.  Few people in the game north of the border had experienced chaplaincy and any “religious” influence within the Scottish game was perceived in a negative light because of sectarianism.   Chaplaincy was regarded with suspicion or derision by many people in the game.


SCUK Scotland

For 9 years he worked with several different managers and players as the club experienced the highs of three promotions and the lows of two relegations!  Such was the high turnover of staff at Firhill that many former Thistle personnel found themselves at other clubs throughout Scotland and as Mark followed them up, he discovered that there was an interest in chaplaincy elsewhere.  One player (Ray Montgomery) retired and went back to work at former club Kilmarnock FC. He opened the door for Mark to approach the management team and before long Neil Urquhart had become Mark’s first appointment.  Ray then opened up another door for Mark to speak to his friend who was manager of St Mirren FC.  Another chaplain, Hugh Chalk, was appointed.  And so began the extensive development of Sports Chaplaincy UK within Scotland.  We now have 39 out of the 42 SPFL clubs with chaplains. He is also piloting chaplaincy in Scottish women’s football at Hibernian Ladies FC and is developing chaplaincy in the Highland League, with the first appointment at Nairn County FC.

Read Scottish Football Report

There are a growing number of Chaplains working within football clubs outside of the Football League.

At one end of the spectrum in the Football Conference there are full-time professional teams, many of whom are ex-league clubs; current examples would be Macclesfield Town, Luton Town and Cambridge United. The Conference also has a good number of part-time teams, such as Woking, Dartford and Hyde. Most of these clubs are deeply involved in their local community and also have thriving Football Academies. The Chaplaincy experiences however can be very different working in these two contexts and, even, from club to club.

crowd go wildBeyond this there are committed Chaplains working at teams further down the football pyramid, in the Football Conference North and South, and below that in the Ryman, Northern Premier, Southern Premier, and so on.

Many of the challenges that players and clubs face are similar to the League experience and in fact, a large number of the players were once at League clubs. However the non-league scene also presents unique opportunities – and often there is greater scope for involvement. The way that each Chaplain engages with their club is very different, and within the Sports Chaplaincy UK body of Chaplains, there is now a huge amount of experience to draw on.

woking winnersWe can learn a lot from the many Chaplains working in the top clubs, but equally there are many opportunities available exclusively at non-league level. SCUK wishes to develop a growing, stronger network of Chaplains working at the non league level, and would invite anyone interested in finding out more to get in touch. with the SCUK Office, or contact Ian Nicholson (Woking) or Stuart Wood (Cambridge United).

Read Lower League Report

Racing welfareSimon Bailey was appointed Chaplain to horse racing in August 2014 carrying on the good work started by the Rev Graham Locking. As Chaplaincy Support Director for Horse Racing he is supported by Racing Welfare and is encouraged by them to develop chaplaincy in all the stables across the country.

Chaplaincy is available for everyone in racing, whether they are religious or not. The Horse Racing Chaplain is around to provide care and support for everyone in the industry.

This will be when people are struggling with personal problems, as well as supporting them in their everyday lives, when things are going well. People can talk to Simon about anything, and he will listen without judging or trying to force his ideas on to them. It is amazing how helpful it can be simply to have someone to talk to, someone who has some knowledge of the racing industry, but is also independent of it. Over the last 10 years many people have found help and support through Chaplaincy to Horse Racing.

Read Horse Racing Report

Rugby Union


“Professional rugby can be a pressured world, and in my experience, particularly while at Wasps, chaplains can really help. They provide an independent ear, and are a good place to get confidential counsel and advice.  It is an important role.” Matt Dawson, England & British Lions

The past 10 years has seen significant growth within chaplaincy provision in Rugby Union, and most Premier and RaboDirect Pro12 Leagues now have Sports Chaplaincy UK chaplains. There are also many others across the UK at semi-professional & amateur level. In England Sports Chaplaincy UK offer an official pastoral support network for the RFU Elite Officials.

On the wider RU scene Sports Chaplaincy UK provided official chaplaincy at the IRB U19 World Championship in Belfast in 2007, the Junior World Championship in Wales in 2008, and the Women’s World Cup in Guildford in 2010. In addition four Sports Chaplaincy UK chaplains were involved in the chaplaincy support team at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Over the years a working relationship has developed with most of the home unions, professional league organisations, and the players’ associations. Sports Chaplaincy UK also enjoys the backing of many high profile individuals within the game such as Ian McGeechan and Damian Hopley.

The work of Dave Chawner as full time Pastoral Support Director for Rugby Union from 2007-2011 gave significant impetus to this development and offered support to chaplains and clubs. Sports Chaplaincy UK are now looking to create a funding package to allow the continuation of this role.  The ultimate aim is to grow this UK-wide network of pastoral and spiritual support within Rugby Union so that it becomes integral to the game at every level.

Chaplaincy in Professional Rugby League has grown significantly in recent years with there now being chaplains at nearly all Super League clubs.

Over the next few seasons we will also be working very hard as a team to replicate the success we have had in the Super League Rugby and to carry this model right the way through the Championship and Championship 1 League clubs. We will continue to work in close partnership with the RFL who encourage chaplaincy through out the game and we are looking to support more effectively the other professional bodies involved in Rugby League like that of the RL Cares, League13 and State of Mind.

Chaplains/ Club Pastors are involved at all levels of their clubs offering pastoral and spiritual support to everyone, people of faith and people of no faith.  This generally involves visiting the clubs offices and training facilities on a weekly basis and being available to listen and bring support to all staff alike from the CEO to the grounds-man, the kit-man to the doctor, the players to the coach and everyone else in between.

At times this can look and feel like we are loitering but this is a very important aspect of our role, by being visible and available we are able to build relationships. When times of crisis arise and they do, chaplains are a trusted port of call and are an important part of staff and player welfare. Each Chaplain will bring with them a vast range of skills, knowledge and individual expertise. In general though chaplains are extremely supportive and bring a non judgemental listening ear and an empathetic and compassionate presence, wisdom and learning from their particular faith walk and above all the gifts of encouragement, support and comfort in the challenging arena of professional sports.  On the playing side this may mean supporting a player with a long term injury or helping a young player cope with the disappointment of being released by the club.  For all staff it will include listening to and caring for a member of staff who has recently been bereaved, supporting individuals through a redundancy process or possibly scattering the ashes of a fan at the stadium.

The national professional bodies are keen to see a chaplain at every club so our team will be looking to share and persuade clubs of the benefits of chaplaincy where they don’t yet have one as well as assisting clubs in finding the right person.

If you are interested in knowing more about Rugby League chaplaincy, either for yourself or for a club you represent, please contact don’t hesitate to contact us.

Antonio Hall

Antonio Hall – Pastoral Support Co-ordinator for Rugby League
Email: antonio.hall@sportschaplaincy.org.uk

Read Rugby League Report

“There is no doubt that our club chaplain, has performed a very valuable service at the club. For players, he almost acts as a mentor. With the rest of the staff, he has offered real support for those who have suffered bereavement or just need someone to talk to. In todays helter-skelter world, a voice of calmness can be inspiring and invigorating.” Jim Cumbes, Chief Executive/ Secretary, Lancashire County Cricket Club.

cricket club chaplainsAs mentioned in Freddie Flintoffs recent programe on depression, cricket seems to encounter mental wellbeing problems more than most sports.

Sports chaplaincy UK has a handful of cricket chaplains, and we are looking for someone to develop chaplaincy in this sport.  If you are interested or know someone who is, please contact us and we will help and support you.

ChapTeamFor decades SCUK (Sports Chaplaincy UK / SCORE) has been involved with Major Sports’ Event Chaplaincy and in 2002 it organised & coordinated the entirety of the ‘multi-faith’ chaplaincy provision at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

40 chaplains from the Commonwealth’s main major religions, in 4 distinct teams, delivered much appreciated, sensitive pastoral & spiritual support to athletes, administrators, spectators, media representatives, volunteers and others associated with the Games.

This took place in the Athletes’ Village, Games Venues, Public Areas around the main stadia, and Manchester City Centre. As a result of his leadership experience, Rev. John Boyers (then SCUK’s National Director) served as a consultant in the provision of religious services’ for the Athens 2004 Olympics & Paralympics, at which SCUK’s training materials & principles of ‘good practice’ were valued & adopted. Likewise, London 2014 saw Rev Canon Duncan Greene (now Archdeacon of Northholt), an SCUK Trustee, head up the large team of chaplains serving the Athletes’ Villages and Venues.

Sports Chaplaincy is a worldwide phenomenon and nine Christian chaplains, trained by Sports Chaplaincy Australia (a sister to SCUK), successfully participated in a 45 strong ‘multi-faith’ team at Melbourne’s CG in 2006. At The 2010 Delhi Games chaplaincy provision was sadly much reduced, however Rev Neil Urquhart, Pastoral Director of SCUK in Scotland participated as an international chaplain in The Athletes’ Village. Under the direction of The Global Sports Coalition, the village team included 5 Christian, 3 Hindu, 3 Muslim, & 2 Buddhist chaplains (see photo).

Glasgow in 2014, saw a slightly increased team of 24 chaplains (See some in photo) serve the Athletes Village well, under the direction of Rev Stuart MacQuarrie. It is hoped that chaplaincy provision for Australia’s Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will be similar in extent to that provided in Manchester.

Olympic Games
The learning at the Manchester Commonwealth games of building a multi-faith chaplaincy team, and the training and setup needed became the template for future Olympic chaplaincy.  As a result of his leadership experience in Commonwealth Games chaplaincy, Rev. John Boyers (then SCORE’s National Director) served as a consultant in the provision of religious services’ for the Athens 2004 Olympics and Paralympics,  at which Sports Chaplaincy UK’s training materials and principles of ‘good practice’ were valued & adopted.

More recently, the preparations for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics chaplaincy has been overssen by Rev. Canon Duncan Green, the LOCOG multi-faith services advisor for 2012.  He has drawn upon Sports Chaplaincy UK’s experience of planning and delivering sports chaplaincy at major events.  Specifically LOCOG have invited John to be seconded to them for three months to serve as the Multi-Faith Centre Manager from 1st July.  A number of Sports Chaplaincy UK members are providing official and approved chaplaincy at various venues during 2012.

Ever since childhood, I have been a follower of motorcycle racing (and indeed, all forms of motorsport). This stems primarily from two things; motorsport-loving parents and the experience of watching the dices between Bill Ivy and Phil Read at the Ulster Grand Prix in the sixties. Marrying a relation of eleven times Isle of Man T.T. winner, Phillip McCallen has continued to keep the family interest alive and I keep tabs on the scene “back home” as well as being involved here on the mainland. Since 2005, I have acted as chaplain to the Aintree Motorcycle Racing Club in Liverpool. As the name suggests, the circuit (used in a longer form in past years for the British Grand Prix), is beside the Grand National course and hosts meetings on five Saturdays from May until September. For me, being a chaplain enables me both to put something back into a sport which has given me a lot of pleasure and to share my faith with others in a relaxed and informal way, through the medium of that sport.

At each meeting, I go on my “walkabout,” endeavouring to have a short chat with officials in their varying capacities, competitors and spectators. On one occasion, I was given the opportunity to be interviewed by the race commentator about my role, while, on a more sad note, I have led tributes to those from the racing world who have died and have officiated at the funeral of a competitor who had suffered a fatal accident at the circuit. Over the years, it has been good to become “part of the furniture” at Aintree and to get to know many people connected to the club.

I am thankful for the privilege of having the role of chaplain and for opportunities to discuss the world of racing and, when appropriate, to talk about matters of faith in a gentle way. My hope and prayer is that this will continue to be the case and also that we will have opportunities to bring further developments to the role of chaplaincy in the world of motorsport, on both two wheels and four.