Mental Health Champions Scheme

Mental Health Champions Scheme launched for grassroots referees in Devon

Devon CFA is pleased to be part of a new mental health champions scheme launched by The Football Association, to provide advice and support to grassroots match officials across the county. 

The launch in Devon comes as the nation prepares for Mental Health Awareness Week (10 – 16 May), with emphasis being placed on stepping up the fight for mental health.

The transformative scheme, believed to be the first of its kind for grassroots match officials in any sport, aims to create an open environment so that everyone involved in the refereeing community in Devon can talk openly about mental health and be supported.

As a founding signatory of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation and the Heads Up Mentally Healthy Football Declaration, The FA has worked closely with Mind to co-design the mental health champion role to help tackle the stigma of mental health within refereeing.

As part of the scheme, our volunteer Ben Goldsworthy from within the grassroots refereeing community will champion the importance of mental wellbeing, encourage conversation and act as points of contact for any match officials aged 18 or over experiencing mental health problems, helping to signpost towards professional support services if required.

19 County FAs now have a refereeing mental health champion in place and the intention is to expand the scheme nationally during 2021.

Richard Glynne-Jones, FA National Referee Manager said: "The mental health and wellbeing of people is more important now than ever, and The FA is committed to putting important steps in place to support our grassroots match officials. This scheme will help create a culture that promotes positive mental health amongst our refereeing community, encouraging honest and open conversations and breaking down the historic stigmas to inspire positive change. We are grateful for support of Devon CFA in driving the scheme forward and we look forward to working with other County FAs on this over the course of the year.”

Hayley Jarvis, Head of Physical Activity for Mind, said: “Mental health is gaining increasing visibility in football, which is hugely encouraging. But while the mental health of fans and players is now being talked about more than ever, it’s vital that we address the wellbeing of everyone involved in the game, not least referees, who face a unique set of challenges that could affect their mental wellbeing. That’s why we’re delighted to be working with The FA, and our training partner Washington Mind, on this ground-breaking scheme to support the mental health of grassroots match officials across the country.”

Paul Morrison, Devon FA Chief Executive, said: “In this ever challenging world we now live in I’m so pleased that our County has a person dedicated to be there to support, guide and assist our bank of Match Officials should they have any worries regarding their own personal life issues” We must encourage our Match Officials to have the confidence to discuss and share their worries with ourselves.

Devon CFA’s mental health champion is Ben Goldsworthy.

Ben is a Devon CFA referee of almost 4 years. During his brief career, he has become very aware of the well-defined link between physical and mental health.

Ben's own experiences with mental health during the pandemic has increased his passion for helping colleagues battle stigma and encouraging a strong culture of discussing and improving our mental welfare as referees. It is vital that mental health is seen as a normal part of life, and Ben is fully committed to championing the mental health of all our colleagues in the community.

If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Ben at benrefchampion@gmail.com