Saturday , June 22 2024

Premier League to continue funding help for ex-players with dementia, with support to go beyond £1m | Football News

The Premier League has told Sky Sports News they will continue to fund help for ex-players and their families with dementia once the Interim Football Brain Health Fund expires in the autumn.

The Premier League and PFA originally committed to work together on this project last September. It is a fund which all the football authorities had tried – but failed – to establish in the previous two decades.

New figures seen by Sky Sports News show £800,000 of financial support has so far been given to more than 70 families of former players who are living with dementia.

The Premier League and PFA say once those financial costs go beyond £1m, they will continue to help families in need. They have already ringfenced an additional £500,000 of support next season to continue the support of the existing families, and it is expect the cost will rise to more than £1m a year.

More than 200 families are receiving other forms of practical and emotional support, with the PFA keen to encourage more to come forward.

One of the first groups to receive help from the fund with the huge cost of specialist residential care was the family of John Ritson, who played for Bolton and Bury in the 1960s and ’70s.

John’s daughter, Chloe Ritson, said: “Down the line, I think the money should be there to support the players and their families, as they get to this stage.

“I don’t think they should be cast aside, and left to fend for themselves.

“In the situation we were in, without Dawn [Astle] I don’t know where we’d be. We don’t have the funds to pay for his top-up care.

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“It’s such an expensive thing to have your loved one looked after when they have dementia on this level. The help just has to be there.”

Awareness of the risk of repeated head impacts in football has grown since 2002 when an inquest into the death of former WBA and England striker Jeff Astle recorded a verdict of “industrial disease”. For the first time, football had been recorded as the cause of death, via dementia.

From then on, Astle’s daughter Dawn has campaigned tirelessly for a Brain Health Fund to be set up. In 2002, Dawn said she felt vindicated by the coroner’s verdict: “We always said that football, heading the ball day in and day out, had killed him. We wanted justice, and for the truth to be known.”

Now, in a new interview with Sky Sports News, Dawn Astle said: “There’s not a day goes by when I’m not in tears about the loss of my dad. I couldn’t move on. How could I, when he impacted my life so much?”

Speaking about all the families of ex-footballers who have struggled without financial help for so many years, she said: “I know there is a lot of anger and upset out there, and I wish it [the Brain Health Fund] had happened years ago. But I have to focus on now, and trying to help as many families as I can.

dawn astle
Jeff Astle’s daughter Dawn has campaigned tirelessly for a Brain Health Fund since 2002

“Walking in to that chapel of rest, and knowing your dad is in that coffin, I said to him: ‘If football has done this to you, I will promise you the whole world will know about it.’ I was never going to break that promise. In truth, I sacrificed so much in this fight. I wasn’t really there for my partner, for my kids, a lot of the time.

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“It absolutely consumes you 24 hours a day. You think about it all day, all night, researching the internet to try to get it changed, because people are dying. They are dying. There is no bigger sacrifice. And my dad died in horrific circumstances. I was screaming at the top of my voice to try to help him…but he was just looking at me, he didn’t understand what I was saying. It was horrendous and haunts me every day, and always will.

“From that moment on, I decided there were two things we needed to do: help those who already have the illness, for whom this is too late, and also help those in the future.”

Premier League match ball 2023/24
The Premier League has told Sky Sports they will continue to fund help for ex-players and their families with dementia

To that end, Astle leads the PFA’s dementia support service, which offers practical and emotional support for families. They also provide access to dementia care nurses, and run regular specialist clinics for families coping with the illness. She has welcomed the FA decision, announced last week, to ban heading in U7s, with a staged reduction in heading in older age groups too.

Nick Perchard, Director of Community at the Premier League, added to Sky Sports News: “We’re in this for the long haul as the Premier League, and I know I can speak for the PFA on their behalf as well. We’re not going anywhere, the fund will continue, we’ve got £1m set aside for the foreseeable future.

“We’ll keep that under review though, because you know, one of the things that I’m really passionate about, and I know that colleagues at the PFA are, is actually encouraging families to come forward.

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“We know there are families out there that are suffering who need support. Come in, ask for it.”

On the ambition to limit the risk for current players, Perchard said: “This is a growing area of science and research. [There’s a] huge amount going on across the world in terms of the impact of head injuries on brain health in the longer term.

“We’re obviously working a lot with experts in the field trying to understand what the potential consequences are of head impacts.

“In the meantime we’re taking a precautionary approach, working across the game both at professional and grassroots level with our colleagues at the FA and the EFL, to make sure that actually where there is a potential risk, let’s try and limit that risk.

“We ask all professional players to limit the number of what we call ‘high-force headers’ to a maximum of 10 per week. That’s things like headers, long balls, set-pieces.

“And of course we were the first league in the world to introduce the permanent concussion sub-pilot, a couple of years ago now [February 2021].”

El deporte es una actividad física y competitiva que involucra habilidades, destrezas y esfuerzo físico. Se practica en todo el mundo y puede ser individual o en equipo. Los deportes fomentan la salud, la camaradería y la competencia sana, y varían desde deportes al aire libre como el fútbol y el tenis hasta deportes de interior como el baloncesto y el ajedrez. Cada deporte tiene sus propias reglas y objetivos, pero todos promueven un estilo de vida activo y saludable.


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