Referee holding ball

Mental Health Champions Scheme

Mental Health Champions Scheme launched for grassroots referees in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire FA is pleased to be part of a new mental health champions scheme launched by The Football Association, 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 Lincolnshire 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 Gary Caley and Andrew Waite 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 Lincolnshire 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.”

Michael Brader Lincolnshire FA Referee Development Officer said “The past two years have been challenging in so many ways and this is an important element of our ongoing commitment to support the Referee Workforce in Lincolnshire. Refereeing can be a solitary pursuit for the majority of our Match Officials but, in addition to the support mechanisms that have long been in place, we now have this excellent avenue if a Referee needs to speak to someone in confidence on any matter that is affecting them.”

Lincolnshire CFA’s mental health champions are Gary Caley and Andy Waite.

Gary has been officiating for 9 years, originally in London and Essex and now, Lincolnshire. He is currently a second-year level 4 referee and combines this with a busy home life and work within the Prison Service.

Although having gained no formal qualifications, Gary has extensive knowledge of mental health, both through his own battles after serving in Afghanistan during the troubles, and his workplace training. Gary works as a trainer for the Prison Service and trains the new officers to get them ready for their jobs on the landings of their prisons. He delivers mental health awareness and promoting good mental health in staff as part of this.

Gary wants to raise awareness of mental health within the football community generally, however he feels that refereeing is one area that suffers greatly with lack of support in this area. Gary feels that raising awareness and offering support that is needed through initiatives like Mental Health Champions is a step in the right direction, however there is a long way to go and he is determined to be part of it.

Andy has been a referee for 20 years and a Level 4 for the past 4. He officiated in Norfolk until the start of season 2020/21, when he registered with Lincolnshire CFA. During his refereeing career, he has had the privilege of officiating on several County Cup fixtures, including some that have been played at Carrow Road. 

Since leaving the Royal Air Force after serving as a Police Officer for 20 years, Andy has worked within the housing and homeless sector and, as a result, has worked closely with people who have suffered with mental health issues, as well as other health concerns. During this period, he has received various levels of training and has been able to provide support and guidance, signposting to the relevant agencies when necessary.

Andy feels that there continues to be a stigma attached to mental health and looks forward to being part of a team that can increase knowledge and awareness of mental health

If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Gary at or Andy at