The Alzheimer’s Society on Monday posted a message of thanks to Sir Bobby and his family after they gave their blessing for his dementia diagnosis to be made public. “Their bravery in speaking out helps so much to shine further light on the condition, for which we are hugely thankful,” said Kate Lee, the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society. “The team of ’66 will never be forgotten – sadly it’s now for another reason as well, but we hope that this can be put to good use in highlighting the help that is out there.”
Although researchers have been unable to identify the precise dementia cause, they do know that footballers generally are at a vastly increased risk and that there is a wider link between head trauma and neurological disease.
Having brain disease formally recognised would allow players to make a claim for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, as is the case with more than 70 other diseases which are included in the scheme. This is a capped weekly benefit paid to people who become disabled because of an accident at work or due to certain prescribed diseases caused by their job. The current Government guidance suggests that people with industrial illnesses are assessed and, depending on the severity, are entitled to benefit on a sliding scale up to around £180-a-week.
Some industries with serious industrial injuries have also launched their own compensation schemes, such as the Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Scheme. The National Football League in America has set up a ‘Concussion Settlement Fund’ to help families of former players with neurodegenerative disease and has so far paid out almost $810.5 million (£628m).
National recognition of brain disease in former footballers as an industrial illness would significantly increase the pressure on football’s governing bodies to also provide financial assistance.
The PFA part-funded the Glasgow study and said that it had written in support of a request to “prescribe neurodegenerative disease as an industrial disease in ex-professional footballers”. The PFA have also pledged £500,000 to the Reposm Sporting Housing Trust, a charity which wants to provide sheltered accommodation for retired sportspeople.