Sir Bobby Charlton, England’s revered 1966 World Cup winner who is widely recognised as the country’s greatest ever footballer, has been diagnosed with dementia.
The news can be disclosed with the blessing of his wife, Lady Norma Charlton, and follows the deaths of his former Manchester United club-mate Nobby Stiles on Friday and his older brother Jack Charlton in July. Both Stiles and Jack Charlton had also been diagnosed with dementia in later life.
All three were part of England’s legendary team of 1966, as were Ray Wilson and Martin Peters, who died respectively in 2018 and 2019 after living with dementia.
Lady Norma confirmed Sir Bobby’s diagnosis to The Telegraph and said that the family were happy for this to be reported. She also expressed a hope that the knowledge of Sir Bobby’s diagnosis could help others.
The news will reinforce calls for dementia in football to be investigated as a potential industrial disease and for governing bodies to mitigate the risks of repeated head trauma and provide further support for the families of former players living with dementia.
The Telegraph launched a campaign in 2016 for research into the prevalence of dementia among former footballers and, last year, a study part-funded by the Football Association found that former professional footballers were 350 per cent more likely to die of neurological disease.
Now 83, Sir Bobby is celebrated across the footballing world for his achievements on the field. As well as playing every minute of the 1966 World Cup triumph, he won the Ballon d’Or later that year and, having survived the Munich Air Disaster of 1958, he inspired Manchester United to their first European Cup triumph in 1968 with two goals in the final.