Northumberland 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 Northumberland 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 Darren McCall 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 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 Northumberland 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.”


Northumberland FA’s Referee Development Officer, Matt Sowerby, said: “We’re delighted to be one of the first County FA’s to be taking part in this project. Mental health is such a big issue affecting so many people, and it’s imperative that we all feel able to discuss the issue more openly. Our new mental health champion will play an important role in our referee community and will help us with our ongoing work to support all our match officials.”


Northumberland CFA’s mental health champion is Darren McCall.


Darren is a relatively new referee and mentor. He recognises the stresses that can exist from the refereeing role and wants to draw upon his own life experiences to help try and change attitudes and to be a supportive voice on the end of the phone for any referee who needs it.


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


The County FAs involved in the pilot are:




West Riding

Sheffield and Hallamshire

North Riding









For further information, please contact: