Mental Health Champions



West Riding 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 West Riding 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 Gareth Myers and Darius Bradley 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.


The scheme is being piloted in 11 County FAs across the North of England and the Midlands including West Riding 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.”


Mark Haywood, Referee Development Officer for West Riding FA, said: "Supporting Referees, at any level of the game, is one of the most important roles that we focus on as a County FA.  The mental health of everyone in football is paramount and we are really pleased to be starting this journey with our referees.  Both Darius and Gareth have been involved in refereeing within the County for a number of years now and both fully understand the impact good mental health has on everyday life, so we are delighted to welcome them both on board as Mental Health Champions and look forward to working alongside them.  A key message to all our referees is that if you ever feel you need any support, it is available and there are people here to listen and talk to. As always, we advocate that the refereeing family all take the time to keep in touch and help each other and this added layer of support will only enhance that network."


West Riding CFAs’ mental health champions are Gareth Myers and Darius Bradley.


Having experienced mental health difficulties himself, Gareth is a big advocate for talking about mental health more openly and encouraging daily practices that protect match officials’ mental wellbeing.


Refereeing has played a huge part in Gareth’s life and continues to do so. He believes it’s vital to recognise mental health as a normal, essential part of everyone’s life and is fully committed to improving wellbeing and championing mental health for himself and those around him.


Darius, a Level 3 referee, has been officiating for 9 years.


He points to the support he has received from the FA in the past when he had mental health problems and wants to be able to help other referees in the same way.  Darius is well positioned to do so, as he understands well the pressures and stresses that refereeing can bring.


If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with either Gareth via or with Darius via to arrange a suitable time to talk.


Meet The Mental Health Champions