Kent FA 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 match officials across the county.
The launch in Kent 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 Kent 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 Jamie Goldthorp and Phil Knight 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 Kent 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.”
Kent FA's mental health champions are Jamie Goldthorp and Phil Knight.
Jamie qualified as a referee in 2006 under the tutelage of fellow Mental Health Champion Phil Knight. After promotion to Level 5 and some years on the County circuit, Jamie took a break from refereeing to have a go at triathlon. Ultimately it was watching his children play that tempted him back into refereeing; he now balances running, cycling and refereeing as time allows.
Jamie’s own personal experience of mental health challenges has given him confidence and an understanding of the difficulty many of us face when talking about our own mental health and how, as match officials, the pressures we face can make it harder to break down barriers.
When not officiating, Jamie enjoys running and cycling and has a part-time bike repair business.
Having found it impossible for over 20 years to open up about his experience of attending the 1989 FA Cup Semi-Final played at Hillsborough, (even from his wife who he met ten years later), Phil often found himself challenged by his Leppings Lane memories and the guilt and anger associated with them. Phil reached a crisis point as the legal cases made their way to court, and sensing that he needed to open up, made his first call to the Samaritans. Realising for the first time the strength and resilience that came from talking about his memories, in time, Phil was subsequently able to share his experiences with his wife and others and whilst talking about the day still brings an uncomfortable emotional response, the memories no longer have such debilitating power over him.
For a number of years, Phil has been heavily involved with the work of the Samaritans and now works supporting others struggling to cope with their own memories, in particular survivors of historic sexual abuse. As an FA Mental Health Champion, Phil is keen to use his experience to show that whilst it may seem the easy option to bottle up your feelings and emotions, it is so much better to talk and be honest with how you are doing. In Phil's case he only wishes he'd done it 20 years earlier.
Nick Dunn, Kent FA Referee Development Officer at Kent FA, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that as a County FA we are supporting The FA Referees Department in delivering this really important initiative. At a time when mental health is so important, especially during the current challenging times, it’s great that we can offer our entire referee workforce the opportunity to access some additional support.
“Here at Kent County FA, we have worked extremely hard over the last few years to ensure we support all of our referees and provide the appropriate off-field support, so this further initiative will ensure we can improve our offer of support.
“I’d encourage all of our referees to arrange a call with either Jamie or Phil if they require any support; it’s really important that we all pick up the phone and speak to somebody if we are struggling. There is nothing to be worried about and any contact that you make will be kept in strict confidence; sometimes, the biggest step you can take is getting a worry or concern off your chest! Even if you don’t feel like you can speak to one of our mental health champions initially, my phone is always switched on to take a call.”
If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org or Phil at email@example.com