Experience and construction of mental health among English female football match officials

Thomas Webb, Paul Gorczynski, Shakiba Oftadeh Moghadam, Laura Grubb

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Research into the mental health of female sport match officials is scarce, despite verbal and physical abuse being commonplace. Twelve female match officials officiating male and female matches took part in semi-structured interviews investigating experiences and understanding of their mental health. Deductive thematic analysis identified four overarching themes: male and female football environments; abuse, sexism and homophobia in football; formal and informal support networks; and mental health knowledge and experience: Accessing services. Results revealed toxic, abusive, male dominated environments that included sexist and derogatory language, negatively affecting their mental health. Female match officials, struggled to ascertain mechanisms for support and identified that the educational courses and local organisations did not provide mental health information or training, with match officials often experiencing poor mental health during and after matches. Increased engagement with mental health literacy and policy change from governing bodies is required, given the unique challenges female match officials face.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalThe Sport Psychologist
Issue number1
Early online date4 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Female referees
  • Mental health literacy
  • Sport match officials


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