the new gloucestershire fa referee mental health champion

Gloucestershire FA Referee Mental Health Champion

Meet Gerry Witcombe, our very first Referee Mental Health Champion

The FA have appointed Gerry Witcombe as the very first Referee Mental Health Champion in Gloucestershire

The FA Refereeing Department is committed to supporting the mental health of referees and everyone involved in refereeing. Therefore, they have appointed Gerry to be the very first Mental Health Champion in Gloucestershire. Gerry’s role will see him help tackle the mental health stigma within refereeing, help create a culture that promotes positive mental health and supports any referees with or who may be experiencing mental health problems.

Whilst many people are comfortable talking about their physical health, we know talking about and seeking support for our mental health can be a challenge. We all have mental health, just as we have physical health. As our bodies become unwell so too can our minds, with one in four adults and one in eight young people experiencing mental health problems each year. Sadly, the cost of not talking about mental health can be devastating with almost 4,000 people taking their own lives each year.

Definition of a Mental Health Champion: “A mental health champion is someone who takes action to raise awareness of mental health and challenge stigma. In some cases, where trained appropriately, champions can help those who are experiencing mental health problems by signposting them to appropriate support services.”

We asked Gerry about his Referee experience & how this will help him, what he’s most looking forward to and any challenges he envisions in his new role.

“I took the [Referee] course in 1978 and quickly worked my way up the promotion ladder to level 1 [Now called Level 5]. I have a lot of experience in match situations, having handled several incidents throughout my career in a very competitive Sunday League and County League. It has given me a good understanding of what to do, should any problems arise.”

“I am looking forward to assisting referees [across the levels], sharing my knowledge and helping them with any worries they may have.

“The main challenge I see in this role is one of communication. We live in a digital world, and it seems we may have lost the art of conversation. There is a stigma around mental health that is not fully recognised yet although it is has improved immensely. An individual may feel that they are not experiencing a mental health issue even though they could be, and they may not know how to communicate this. It is about having a conversation/chat with them to see how they feel and what support/if any, I can signpost them to."

What advice does Gerry have to offer to current Referees?

“No matter what is happening on the pitch, try to stay calm and make notes of the situation. Stay away from the situation and do not get involved until it is safe to do so.”

Ultimately, we want to create an open environment so that referees and everyone involved in the refereeing community can talk openly and be supported. If you have any queries you would like to discuss with Gerry, please contact