Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA is pleased to be part of a new mental health champions scheme launched by The Football Association, 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 Sheffield and Hallamshire 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 volunteers Natasha Wilson and Matt Malton 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 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 Sheffield and Hallamshire and all volunteers have received mental health awareness and champion role training. 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 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.”
Sheffield and Hallamshire’s County FAs’ mental health champions are Natasha Wilson and Matt Malton.
Natasha has been a referee for 10 years and was, until 2020, Leicestershire CFA’s Referee Development Officer (RDO). She has always found that, whilst refereeing, she can switch off from the ‘real world’ and focus on bringing the game to a safe conclusion.
Natasha has experienced her own mental health problems, in particular anxiety and depression. She has also attempted to take her own life. At her lowest points, it has always been refereeing that has somehow allowed her to pick herself back up again.
Natasha is passionate about drawing upon her own experiences to enable her to help others.
Matt is a Level 4 referee and has been officiating for the past 10 years. He is passionate about supporting positive mental health and wellbeing and will be on hand to any match official in the County who would like to talk.
If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with either Natasha via firstname.lastname@example.org or with Matt via email@example.com to arrange a suitable time to talk.