lee farthing

Mental Health Support for Referees

Derbyshire's Mental Health Champion Lee Farthing provides support to other grassroots match officials.

As part of The FA’s ‘Mental Health Champion’ scheme, Mr Farthing advocates 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.

The scheme, launched by The FA, aims to create an open environment so that everyone involved in the refereeing community can talk openly about mental health and be supported.

The transformative scheme is believed to be the first of it’s kind for grassroots match officials in any sport.

Lee has been refereeing for six years in Derbyshire and also officiates across in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire in a variety of leagues and competitions.

If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Mr Farthing at leefarthingreferee@gmail.com.

Recently promoted to Level 5, Lee is a member of the Derbyshire FA ‘County CORE’ programme as he continues his refereeing journey.

He also acts as a mentor for those aiming for promotion from Level 7 to 6.

He has been involved in football throughout his life as a player and is also a coach, club welfare officer, and club secretary at a grassroots club in Derby.

Lee is also the welfare officer for the Erewash Valley Referee Association and has been instrumental in working with Erewash Voluntary Action to implement mental health policies at his local Referee Association and his grassroots club. This encouraged him to complete a suicide awareness course, the metal health first aid course and, most recently, the mental health in sport course.

He is passionate about increasing knowledge and awareness of issues that can impact match officials and their mental health, challenging mental health ‘stigma’ and establishing a culture where mental health conversations are increasingly encouraged without fear of judgement.

Lee was recognised as 2022's Grassroots Match Official of the Year. See below the video, where fellow referee Lauren Whiteman discusses why she nominated him for the award.

Reece Davies, Referee Development Officer at the Derbyshire FA, said: “I am absolutely delighted that as a County FA we are supporting The FA Referees Department with this really important initiative. 

“At a time when mental health is so important, especially during these challenging times, it is great that we can offer our entire referee workforce the opportunity to access some additional support. 

“Here at the Derbyshire FA, we have worked extremely hard over to ensure we support all our referees and provide the appropriate off-field support, so this initiative will ensure we can further improve our service. 

“Lee understands that having a good, strong and positive mental health can have a serious impact on day-to-day life, and I look forward to working alongside him.

“It is really important that we all pick up the phone and speak to somebody if we are struggling. 

“There is nothing to be worried about and any contact that you make will be kept strictly confidential.

“I am sure you will all join me in wishing Lee the best as our mental health champion.”


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 and help tackle the stigma of mental health within refereeing.

If you have a mental health problem and would like to have a confidential conversation, then please first make contact with Mr Farthing at leefarthingreferee@gmail.com.

To find out more about the scheme or refereeing in Derbyshire, contact Reece Davies at reece.davies@derbyshirefa.com or call 01332 361422.

Photo by Claire of the Peaks, check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.