English football’s “appalling” failure to act on the dementia crisis is an “embarrassment” to the game.
And the Football Association and players’ union were widely accused of not tackling the issue which has led to devastating consequences for a whole generation of ex-players and their families.
The focus is finally on concussion and the mistakes of the past which has led to great players of the past suffer from dementia and brain disease amid the links between heading.
England’s 1966 World Cup winning team has been ripped apart by dementia as Nobby Stiles died last November while swathes of players from the 1960s and 70s are suffering the consequences.
Former England star Frank Worthington was diagnosed with dementia in 2016 and became the latest high profile player to die after a long illness on Tuesday.
And in a highly-charged Department of Culture Media and Sport select committee hearing, MP Julian Knight angrily accused the FA of not doing enough to solve the problem.
FA head of medical Charlotte Cowie was left squirming by a raft of difficult questions from Knight as to how much the Association had actually spent on research.
The FA and Professional Footballers’ Association both spent £125,000 each on research carried out by Dr Willie Stewart but Cowie refused to say how much in total they had spent in the past.
Knight pointed out that Dr Stewart’s entire research budget of £250,000 is just six week’s salary for Gordon Taylor. “I think that says an awful lot,” said Knight.
Knight fumed: “I’m staggered that you have come here today without the figures that you have spent in the past year. You are in front of a Parliamentary committee, we’ve heard from young athletes and you are seriously telling a committee that you don’t know.
“I’m appalled and I think you are too embarrassed to say.”
It was an excruciating exchange and the FA have insisted they will not put a limit on any spending in the future in terms of research but the MPs were grilling about what has been done in the past.
Cowie said: “There is genuinely no funding limit we have set on this. We simply want it to be the study that answers our research questions. I can put my hand on my heart and say there is not an amount of money we have set for this.”
Dawn Astle, daughter of the late ex-England and West Brom star Jeff, said her father had been let down. “Football doesn’t want to think that football can be a killer. But I know it can be, because it’s on my dad’s death certificate,” she said.
“I want to make sure players affected are looked after properly. And I want to make sure the game is safe for players now and in the future.”
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Cowie also annoyed ex-Blackburn striker Chris Sutton – whose father Mike passed away last December after a ten year battle with dementia – said the current use of concussion substitutes is wrong.
The FA has begun a trial with permanent concussion substitutes while campaign groups believe there should be temporary substitutes to allow a better evaluation of potential head injuries.
Sutton added: “This is one area that must change immediately. They must ratify temporary concussion replacements. Permanent replacements do not have players’ welfare at heart. And clubs should limit heading in training.
“We do not need meetings about meetings. It needs to happen immediately.”