to provide advice and support to grassroots match officials across the county.
The launch 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 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 Graham Brookland will be the Army FA’s mental health champion. Graham 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.
Graham has spent most of his life working within football. Co-Founder of Aldershot Town Football Club in 1992, he served a variety of roles at the club including 10 years as Company (Club) Secretary. He was also Head of Media when the club were in the Football League and has also served as Club Ambassador. Currently he is the Deputy Secretary of the Army Football Association, based in Aldershot. He is also the Referees’ Secretary; a position he has held since October 2007.
Graham has developed a keen interest in Mental Health and wellbeing and is driven to develop the role and continue learning whilst having the opportunity to play a positive role supporting Army match officials, encouraging non-judgmental engagement. He also aims to increase awareness and knowledge of Mental Health as widely as possible.
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 the Army 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.”
If you are an Army FA official and have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Graham at Graham.Brookland@armyfa.com