Surrey FA is pleased to be part of a new mental health champions scheme launched by The FA, to provide advice and support to grassroots match officials across the County.
The launch in Surrey comes during 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 Surrey 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 Martin Etheridge 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 the support of Surrey FA 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.”
Ashley Gumbrell, Surrey FA Education & Workforce Manager said: “The Mental health Champion scheme will be a vital part of the County FA’s wider commitment to supporting its stakeholders Mental Health better than ever before. Mental health will be a continued agenda item throughout our training and development of referees in particular and we hope that with Martin’s help we will be able to keep the conversations going and increase our support networks in every club, league and referee association across the County”.
Surrey FA’s mental health champion is Martin Etheridge.
Martin is now in his 41st season as a referee. He is also a mentor and passionate about supporting officials achieve their full potential. As Director of Match Officials and Observers at the Combined Counties League he is responsible for around 200 referees and assistants. Whilst Martin is keen to focus on the many positive aspects of officiating, he recognises more needs to be done to create a supportive environment for officials both on and off the pitch. His role will be to champion the importance of mental wellbeing in the County, encourage conversation, share good practice and support individual officials who may be experiencing issues relating to their mental health.
Outside football Martin’s enthusiasm for officiating extends to various disability sports (blind and wheelchair tennis). He is also an international tennis official and this year will be his 27th Wimbledon."
If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.