As posted on the Belfast Telegraph.

Chaplains at Northern Ireland’s sports clubs are ready to offer hope to players in this traumatic time.

As the coronavirus epidemic accelerates across the country, there is heightened anxiety in the sporting world with players concerned about their own health as well as that of their families.

With sport now on lockdown, the structure and support provided by clubs is now gone and players’ mental health can be affected.

These are tough and uncertain times for everyone and Philip Mitchell, chaplaincy support director for Northern Ireland Sport, believes the sporting community must lean on one another to find a way through this crisis.

“The sporting community has never seen days such as these in our lifetime,” admitted the former Linfield and Glentoran midfielder. “The impact on players, coaching staff, administrators, volunteers, supporters and families is significant. Sports chaplains are changing our tactics but not our ministry to sport.

“Our chaplains are connecting in with their clubs and leagues regularly offering support and words of hope and encouragement, and we will be making our services available to any individual, club or sport who do not yet have chaplains, to listen and to provide love and whatever practical support we can.

“We are concerned for the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our sporting communities and over these coming weeks we will be partnering and pooling appropriate resources to better support our sports people and they should know that they will be in our thoughts and prayers as we all navigate this present situation.

“We will be urging them to be calm and strong as we help them through this because we will get through this.”

As teams have now separated, players have been denied that sense of community they feel in a sporting environment.

“We are mindful that people are fearful and in need of comfort and community more than any other time,” added Mitchell.

“Everyone needs to know, regardless of having faith or no faith, that there is a place for them when they need help.

“And to the sporting community, our sports chaplaincy services will be available to all.

“As a ministry to sport we are providing an essential service as our sports chaplains continue to reach out with love, a listening ear, prayer and support in whatever way we can and more than ever before we need to be a voice that offers hope over despair, peace over panic and faith over fear.”

While the country struggles to adapt to this global pandemic, Mitchell believes support for our medical workers and the vulnerable in our society is vital.

“We will be praying for doctors, nurses and everyone within our emergency services and their families that God will keep them safe and will give them the courage and strength and wisdom each day as they carry out their duties in the most challenging of circumstances,” he added.

“And we will be urging our clubs and leagues to support local food banks and similar organisations to ensure there is food and basic provision getting to those most in need.

“Our sports chaplains will continue to do everything in their power to support the efforts of our wider community by cleaning, sanitising and taking any other recommended measures to protect people and keep themselves healthy and safe.”

If anyone feels they need support, they can contact Philip on 07788254465 or email:

Phil Johnson