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Old 13th January 2017, 04:33   #1
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 1,537
Default Support for Dementia Sufferers in Football – Is There an Answer?

Back in December 2016, I penned two articles raising the subject of Dementia in football, and how it affected players and ex – players, and highlighted the pressures and stress that caring for them, put on their families and loved ones. The articles also highlighted the general apathy on the subject from the controlling authorities in English football, namely the Football Association (FA), the Premier League (PL), the Football League (FL), and the Football Clubs themselves. I also pointed the finger at the Professional Football Association (PFA) for the lethargy shown by them in regards to their so-called attempts at research into the correlation between heading the old type football, and the damage that it has caused to players of yesteryear.

The two articles were published by the United website, and by the oldest Manchester United fanzine, Red News. It seems that they did have a little effect as shortly after publication, a person appointed by the FA did in fact contact certain ex-player’s families, which led to me writing about the proposed Means Testing of them, should the FA and PFA set up a fund mainly to help ex-players and their families from the 1966 World Cup winning team.

Since then I have received two communications from the families of two ex-players whose loved ones suffered from, or are still suffering from this dreadful disease, which outlined the effects that led to the struggles which they endure(d) in caring for their loved ones, and the impact it had on their lives.

The first communication was from the wife of an ex-Manchester United player whose career spanned twenty years in the professional game. Sadly, he was diagnosed with dementia when he was just 59 years old, and finally succumbed to it just six years later. As she stated;

“It was heartbreaking, and soul destroying, to watch what this dreadful disease did to him. As he had not reached pension age he lost his job, his income, his eye sight, his bodily functions, his mobility as he deteriorated, and finally his life. As the disease worsened, I needed help with him in every day normal tasks, and because he was not yet 65, any help we received from the council he was charged for. We were forced to sell his football memorabilia to pay for his personal care. I gave up my job to care for him full time, the Government awarded me a Carer’s Allowance of just £3.81 a day to care for him. It certainly was a struggle for us, with basically nowhere to turn for help.”

Sadly, her husband passed away in her arms just 19 days after his 65th birthday.

The second communication was from the daughter of a well-known ex-player who played league football in the lower Football League divisions until he was 40. A striker, and prolific header of the ball, he made well over 700 league appearances, scoring well over 200 goals. She told me that the disease started to become noticeable when he was in his mid-50s. The deterioration has become marked, and he is now 68, and is cared for full-time at home by his family. Today, he can’t speak or look after himself – it is a 24 hour, 7 day a week task, borne by his wife and loving family. His daughter went on to tell me that soon, her father must be moved into a Care Home, and to facilitate this, her mother will have to sell the family home.

It is distressing and harrowing to read cases like this. We all know that the NHS is badly underfunded and overwhelmed. But Dementia is an unusual case. I found it incredulous that sufferers are not classed as ‘registered disabled’. In Scotland sufferers and their families are discriminated against by the fact that at present, anyone under the age of 65 who requires personal care for their Dementia, Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (or any other degenerative brain disease) has to fund the cost of the care themselves. That person as has been stated above, will, probably (through no fault of their own) have lost their job, lost their income, is yet to reach pension age and their carer (which is usually a family member), will too have given up their job to care for their loved one. However, for those over the age of 65, that personal care is free. But no disability, illness, condition or disease waits until a person reaches the age of 65, then strikes.

In England, those with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s face a silent ‘dementia tax’ which amounts to over £21,000 per annum, which is the value of unpaid care provided by family and friends. Currently, local authorities will not provide care services if you have more than £23,250 in savings – and here is the rider – which includes the value of your property if you are a homeowner. Sorting through all the minefield of bureaucratic detail regarding Dementia and any support that you can get really is trying.

Which brings me to the point of the football authorities and why, in my opinion, they do have a moral obligation to help ex-players and their families who are struggling to cope. The FA, PL, FL, PFA, and even the senior Clubs, have all marketed players during their careers and made a pretty penny out of doing so. Last year, the FA held its huge Centenary Dinner celebrating the World Cup win of 1996. The event raised more than just a few thousand pounds. How much of that went to the England playing squad of ’66? Zilch, nout, crabs – not a brass farthing. How much has the FA, on the back of that win made in the almost 50 years since?

Sadly, Clubs quickly forget their former players – until there is some value in remembering them! A good case in question is West Ham United and Bobby Moore, who just happened to be captain of that ’66 World Cup team. There was an occasion when West Ham were in one of their periods of Second Division football when as usual, long after he had retired from the game, Moore had slipped into Upton Park late, as he usually did, and went up into the stand and just sat at the back. He had not been there very long when he was approached by a steward who had been told by a senior club official to go and tell him that he was not allowed in without a ticket. Moore did not create a fuss, he just got up and quietly left…… and never went back to Upton Park again. West Ham had the greatest ambassador they could have ever had for their club – but the reality was, they just did not want to know him. The club’s greatest captain, never ever went back again. Since his death – how much has that club made from his name?

Today, there is just enormous amounts of money swilling about in football. I think it is true to say there is more than a fair share of it wasted, and as is usually the case, it does not flow down into the areas of the game that really need it. So, over the past month or so, the subject of Dementia, and the part that the controlling authorities could play in it, has been turning over in my mind. What could they do to help, not only the star players and their families in the game who have suffered, but also the bread and butter players, especially those from the lower leagues, who have suffered or are still suffering?

Surely, it would not be too hard to set up a Football Foundation to help? Would it be too hard for the FA, PL, FL, PFA, to initially fund it with a donation of £5-10 million each? The fund, when established, would in my opinion grow year on year, and help not only Dementia sufferers too. Would it not be possible to have a number of Care Homes built and funded from this same source? I am also certain that if the PFA approached their members, who in the top echelon, earn mega-millions, to donate; the request would be received both sympathetically, but also enthusiastically. There may well be better ways of addressing the problem. But surely, after all these years of taking from the game, surely it is time for the football authorities to step forward and do their duty? Or am I banging my head, like all those old players and families have done over the years, on a subject that is just wishful thinking?
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