Gordon Taylor: PFA has ‘never been asleep’ on issue of dementia in football

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Matt Majendie
·2-min read
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<p></p> (Steven Paston/PA Wire)
(Steven Paston/PA Wire)

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has defended his role and that of his organisation in dealing with concussion and dementia in former players.

Taylor had previously been accused by former striker Chris Sutton of “having blood on his hands” in his failings to properly handle the widening issue among the union’s members.

But speaking to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing in Parliament on Tuesday, Taylor said: “This is an area we’ve been concerned with throughout my time with the PFA.

“I can assure you the majority of our staff come from the professional game and they’re very mindful of this. We’ve never been asleep on it.”

Appearing before the same DCMS committee last month, Sutton, whose father died last year after a lengthy battle with dementia, accused the PFA of not doing enough to tackle the impact on player health and that, unless Government action was taken, “hundreds and thousands more will die”.

When asked about Sutton’s remarks, Taylor said: “Chris Sutton is one of those people who I speak to in a civilised manner, but it’s a very emotive subject.”

Taylor, who will step down from his role at the end of this season, also hit back at the previous accusation by Dr Willie Stewart, who has led the way in brain injury research, that football’s response to brain injuries had been “a shambles”.

Taylor said: “I would not agree that it is a shambles. That’s ridiculous… this is a serious matter we’ve given serious attention to.”

He insisted he had worked on dealing with the issue closely since the coroner’s report into Jeff Astle’s death in 2002, but agreed that more needed to be done in the future.

He added: “I’m looking at ways whereby we can work with Government to make sure that these diseases — there’s so many examples — are dealt with not just by the particular participants.”

Taylor also said the PFA were “trying to put in place protection for people”, ranging from grants to changes to their homes, adaptations and homecare, as well as care when “the dementia has got very established”.

He also claimed that £1.5million had been committed by the PFA to the issue, including £600,000 towards research.

Sutton estimated he had headed the ball some 72,000 times during his career but, when pushed about the dangers of heading the ball, Taylor said more medical research was needed.

“You need to establish a much greater causal link and that’s why we’re looking at the research,” he said. “Latest research shows there is a much greater risk with repetitive heading, which is why we’re addressing this issue more strongly.”

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