Herefordshire 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 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 Herefordshire 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.

Herefordshire CFA’s mental health champion is John Roskelly.

As part of the scheme, our volunteer John Roskelly from within the grassroots refereeing community will champion the importance of mental wellbeing, encourage conversation and act as a point of contact for any match official aged 18 or over experiencing mental health problems, helping to signpost towards professional support services if required.

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 Herefordshire CFA in driving the scheme forward”.

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.”

Ollie Williams, Herefordshire FA Referee Development Manager said: “We are delighted to have John in place to support match officials with their mental health. Refereeing can be a really positive experience but sometimes we all need someone to chat to. John will be able to do this confidentially and informally so I urge all of our match officials to get in touch with John who will be happy to help.”

John was a career soldier and officer for 38 years, serving around the world.  He played football for the Corps and Army and began refereeing at 40 years of age, reaching Level 3 and remained at this level for 5 seasons.  He now referees at Level 5.  John is an Observer and Mentor, the Chair of Worcestershire FA Referees’ Committee, sits on the WFA Council, is the Secretary of Evesham Referees’ Association and the Vice Chair of Worcestershire County RA.

John introduced referees’ welfare to his local RA as an agenda item as he felt it was so important to raise the awareness of mental health.  There is a wide-ranging membership of both age and experience which he believes will benefit if experiences are shared.  He is committed to sharing the importance of the mental health and wellbeing message across the County.  

Having served in the military for many years, John has gained much knowledge and experience in welfare and the mental health of soldiers in pressured environments. He feels passionate about putting his experience to good use in changing people’s perception of mental health issues, especially in the refereeing community, where referees can feel isolated and vulnerable.  John wishes to change that and challenge the way mental health is seen so that speaking about mental health and wellbeing being can be part of everyday conversation.  

If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with John at john.roskelly@googlemail.com