Cheshire CFA is pleased to be part of a new mental health champions scheme launched by The Football Association [The FA], to provide advice and support to grassroots referees and match officials across the county.
The launch comes as the nation prepares for Time To Talk Day on 4 February, with open conversations about mental health being more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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 referees and everyone involved in the referee community in Cheshire 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 Jonathan King from within the grassroots refereeing community will champion the importance of mental wellbeing, encourage conversation and act as a point of contact for any match officials aged 18 or over experiencing mental health problems, helping to signpost towards professional support services if required.
The scheme is being piloted in 11 County FAs across the North of England and the Midlands including Cheshire and all volunteers have received mental health awareness and champion role training. The intention is to expand the scheme nationally during 2021.
Cheshire FA’s CEO, Mike Watson, said: ‘In recognising the vital role played by all of our match officials across Cheshire, we are delighted to be able to further support the women, men, girls and boys who contribute so much to our game. Working alongside Jonathon, our refereeing team, led by RDO Ed Duckworth, will drive forward our desire to ensure that mental health issues can be openly talked about, and the correct the interventions be put in place for anyone who needs them.’
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 referees and 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 the support of the 11 County FAs involved in driving the pilot 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 referees and match officials across the country.”
Cheshire CFA’s mental health champion is Jonathan King.
Jonathan lives on the Wirral and works for North West Ambulance Service as the mental health triage care lead. Before taking on this role, he worked on the frontline, providing emergency care.
He has a passion for reducing the stigma around mental health and for finding ways for a person in need to seek early support and intervention.
Jonathan has been refereeing for 14 years.
If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact via firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a suitable time to talk.
The County FAs involved in the pilot are:
- West Riding
- Sheffield and Hallamshire
- North Riding