SUTTON: At last the PFA come up with the right answers on dementia

CHRIS SUTTON: At last the PFA have come up with the right answers… now let’s see real change in football’s fight against dementia

  • The PFA has finally taken real steps to tackling football’s problem with dementia 
  • Dawn Astle, daughter of West Brom legend Jeff, has been given an advisory role 
  • The football body has previously failed to return calls or provide adequate help 
  • Gordon Taylor didn’t know how many of PFA’s 50,000 members have dementia
  • The scale of Frank Worthington’s dementia battle left Peter Reid heartbroken 

Excellent news at last. 

When Sportsmail launched this campaign in November, we published seven points that needed to be addressed, several of which were aimed at the PFA. They represented open goals in my eyes. 

We wanted the players’ union to set up a dedicated dementia department, for example, so that the families of former footballers would know where to turn when they need help.

PFA chief Gordon Taylor – who is standing down at the end of the season – once admitted he did not know how many of the 50,000 members were suffering from dementia

This newspaper has heard too many stories of negligence over the last two months. Such as from Adrienne — the daughter of former Republic of Ireland international Tommy Carroll — who contacted the PFA twice and got nothing in return.

Or Jane — the daughter of Port Vale, Tranmere and Halifax goalscorer Graham Barnett — who was so disheartened after a single phone call with the PFA that she never called them back, and they never called her. 

Or Penny — the wife of Dave Watson — who feels as if her husband is the forgotten England captain.

Now, though, it looks like the players’ union are finally putting plans into place to tackle dementia in football. So this news is welcomed with open arms.

Dave Watson’s wife Penny (left) has spoken about the former defender’s battle with dementia and been one of many to shed light on football’s uncomfortable links with the illness

My only complaint can be how long it’s taken to come to fruition. Really, these are boxes that ought to have been ticked more than a decade ago, given Jeff Astle died in 2002.

But I’m sure his daughter, Dawn, will fulfil her duty now. The PFA have picked the right person, along with Rachel Walden, to advise them. 

Dawn wouldn’t put her name to something such as this if she didn’t believe it could help.

Over the coming months, I hope to see real change.

From protecting current players to looking after the old ones and their families, these are positive steps being taken.

The PFA have promised to push for dementia to be formally recognised as an industrial disease, and want to find out how many former footballers are living with this vicious disease.

I have always found it staggering how, when asked by Alan Shearer in his BBC documentary, Gordon Taylor said he did not know how many of the PFA’s 50,000 members have dementia.

Finally, though, the players’ union seem to be coming up with answers.




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