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FA ‘leading the way’ on research into risk of dementia on ex-pros

Lawyers have begun legal action on behalf of a group of ex-professionals suffering from the illness and plan to seek compensation from organisations within the game, understood to include the FA.

The Stiles family this week took aim at the FA and Professional Footballers’ Association over the game’s failure to “address the scandal” of the illness, and called for “urgent action”.

Although the FIELD study, jointly-funded by the FA and PFA, established an increased risk for players of dying from neurodegenerative disease, Bullingham says the causes of the problem remain unclear.

“I think dementia is a horrendous illness. My mother suffers from it. I see it first hand. It’s horrible,” he said.

“In terms of where I feel we are as an organisation, I feel like we’ve led the way with the FIELD research and we’re funding a number of other projects at the moment.

“I don’t think it’s entirely clear cut to identify the risk factors. But obviously heading could be one of those risk factors and that’s why we put in place all the guidelines we have with regards to youth football, which I think are actually tougher than any other country in the world.

“Whilst it is a global problem, I do feel like we’re leading the way and helping to determine what the cause of that issue could be.”

Meanwhile, Bullingham says it would be a “tough ask” for a former player to succeed Greg Clarke as FA chairman.

Greg resigned last week after making a series of inappropriate comments in front of MPs, including referring to “coloured footballers” and “Asians working in IT”.

The FA has named a six-person panel, including former Fulham player Liam Rosenior, who will select the next chairperson, amid a clamour for a former player or a BAME appointment.

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Asked if there was a former professional who had the necessary boardroom experience for the job, Bullingham said: “I think possibly it’s a tough ask. I’m not saying no, but I do think it’s difficult.

“There are two main areas of the role. There’s one to be an absolutely brilliant ambassador and represent us on both the international and domestic stage. I think players can absolutely do that.

“I think there’s a second requirement to run the board. To be clear this is a non-executive role, it was a non-executive role with Greg. The role is not to run the FA, it’s to run the board.

“But we do have a complex stakeholder board and I think it’s hard to see that someone who has never run a board would be able to step in and run a complex stakeholder board of a £450million organisation.

“That’s not to rule anyone out, that’s just to tell you my views on the different skill sets required.

“You know my views, we are doing a board review and I would love to have player representation on the board.

“But if you are asking me does that have to be the chair role, my personal answer would be no. But I’m clearly not the only person who has influence over that decision.”

Stacey Cartwright, an independent non-executive director of the FA, will lead the selection panel, along with Rosenior, interim chairman Peter McCormick, Rupinder Bains, Jack Pearce and Kate Tinsley.

Bullingham revealed Clarke had sent an apology to FA staff following his disastrous appearance before the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee.

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