Leicestershire 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 match officials across the island.
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 Leicestershire 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 Rahi Popat 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 Leicestershire 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.”
Leicestershire CFA’s mental health champion is Rahi Popat.
Rahi has been a referee for 8 years now and began officiating to further develop his knowledge and experience of grassroots football. Initially starting off in the Mini-Soccer League and the Youth Futsal League, he now referees across multiple youth leagues, both as a referee and assistant referee. He also helps co-ordinate the Youth Futsal League which runs on a Saturday and help nurture the new referees coming on board this fast-paced and exciting game.
Rahi works at a special needs school based in Leicester and is currently training to be a Counsellor. He works with children with social, emotional, and mental health difficulties as well as young people in crisis. He is a Designated Safeguarding Lead, Mental Health First Aider, and a Senior Mental Health Lead in his school. Rahi also works with both local and national organisations promoting and advocating mental health and wellbeing, with the aim to raise awareness amongst schools and the wider community.
Rahi is incredibly passionate around increasing awareness, knowledge, and exposure around Mental Health and how this can impact match officials of all ages, gender, and ability. Rahi firmly believes that everybody should look after and protect their own mental health and that by equipping match officials with 'tools' for them to better manage, we stand a greater chance of retaining and recruiting new referees. Mental Health needs to be a priority amongst everybody and now more than ever, we need to look after each other and not pass judgment. Match officials need support just like any other profession and without them, our beautiful game just wouldn't be the same. We all need to work together, reduce the stigma and be kind to one another.
If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Rahi at email@example.com