The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has pledged the creation of a new fund to assist former players (and their families) who have been impacted by dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions.
“Former professional footballers who have been members of the PFA and have a diagnosed neurodegenerative disease will be able to make applications for financial support,” the PFA said in a statement announcing the new fund. The initiative is backed by the English Premier League and will make £1 million immediately available to applicants.
“The new fund is designed to provide a transparent and streamlined process through which those seeking help can apply for financial assistance, while also ensuring they receive personal contact and advice on broader support which may also be available to them,” according to the PFA’s release. “The establishment of the expert panel will ensure that decisions regarding financial assistance are made independently of the football authorities and against informed and established criteria.”
Direct contact with the ball during play can lead to repeated head traumas. Studies have found that ex-football players were five times more likely to develop a type of dementia, namely Alzheimer’s Disease, and had approximately a three and a half times higher death rate due to neurodegenerative disease than the general population.
This is the latest in a series of steps taken by the PFA to address the link between professional football and brain injury. Heading guidance was updated for under-18 players in 2020, and a year later the PFA created a dedicated dementia department to work with families and carers and appointed ‘Family Advisors’ to build a network to support families and carers of former professional footballers living with dementia.
What does this mean for players?
Senior Associate Barrington Atkins comments: “Player welfare should always be the most important consideration. On many occasions I have acted for players who have fallen out of the game due to medical issues, and each case is a tragedy in its own right.
“We embrace the PFA’s established Brain Health team and independent medical expert panel, which is going to have such positive impact for footballers and family members who suffer with the impact of brain injuries.”
What are the next steps for the PFA’s fund?
Barrington says: “This is a significant step for a transformational change in football’s approach to the brain health of current and former professional footballers, to develop a culture of positive brain health for players across football and enhance the quality of life for players living with neurodegenerative disease.
“Further steps will be to lobby the government to recognise sport-related neurodegeneration as an industrial disease, and safeguarding today’s generation of footballers through education to prevent this happening in the future.”
Our PFA partnership
The PFA partners with Stewarts to offer a legal dispute management service to current and former members to resolve legal disputes discreetly and effectively.
Stewarts advises professional footballers on legal disputes including career-ending injuries, employment, contract disputes, divorce and family issues, tax disputes and media-related issues. Our multi-disciplinary sports disputes team conducts litigation in the UK and can coordinate claims in overseas jurisdictions, working alongside specialist law firms around the world when necessary.
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