An open letter to members from Gordon Taylor

PFA open letter to members

Dear Members,

Over the last few days you may have seen some criticism levelled at the leadership of the PFA in the media. We have listened to what has been said about us and taken the time to think carefully about what is in the best interests of our organisation and our members.

I have dedicated the last forty years of my life to professional football. I am extremely proud of the work we do, supporting our members, whether that’s through training and coaching programmes, or promoting diversity and equality in the sport.

I am happy to defend our record – including on issues such as mental health, diversity and player welfare – but I am the first to admit that there are always areas we can improve.

We owe it to you, our members, to hold ourselves to the highest possible standards. We believe we do. However, I am adamant that criticism must not be swept under the carpet and instead addressed head on.

It is important that we are transparent, committed to constantly improving and restless in our mission to support you.

We will, therefore, be recommending to the PFA’s Board of Trustees and Management Committee that an independent QC conducts a full and open review into the structure and operation of the PFA as the trade union for professional footballers in England and Wales.

We will work closely with both the Board of Trustees and Management Committee to finalise the parameters and timeline of the review, at which point we will update you.

We are proud of the work that we do with professional players across all leagues. As you know, we are focused on working with you on some of the most pressing issues in our sport, details of which can be found below.

If you have any questions about the work of the PFA and how we can support you, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 236 0575 or info@thepfa.co.uk.

Best wishes,

Gordon Taylor OBE.

HEALTH AND WELLBEING

The PFA has a 24/7 counselling helpline for members: 07500 000 777. This supported by a national network of over 200 counsellors (93 are qualified to support adult survivors of abuse) and residential support via Sporting Chance Clinic. To date over 1,000 members have accessed mental health support via the PFA.

For any members that run into financial difficulty, you can make an application to the PFA Charity for financial assistance, while PFA members with medium to long-term injuries can access elite medical expertise combined with cutting edge facilities at St George's Park.

The PFA Accident Fund provides grants to members who may need medical assistance for injuries/illness suffered as a consequence of their football career, including respite care, physiotherapy, consultations, rehabilitation, scans and operations.

EDUCATION

PFA Education provides information, advice and grants to current and former players, leading to a recognised qualification. In the 2017/18 season the PFA assisted 1,440 members with funding towards academic and vocational courses.

The PFA run Take Control and Making the Transition workshops to help members to prepare for a career after football. Last season 321 members attended these sessions.

The PFA fund and support bespoke courses for members including: BA (Hons) Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting, Virtual Learning - Football Marketing & Management, BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy at York St John University, LMA Diploma in Football Management and BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy at Salford University.

COACHING

Every club throughout the Premier League and English Football League with an apprentice programme now receives the Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Football as part of their education. This is funded by the PFA and delivered to approximately 750 young players across the country.

Last season the PFA surpassed all previous attendance records for participation on UEFA B Licence courses during 2018 with close to 200 candidates in total.

The demand for places on the UEFA A Licence courses continues to outstrip availability, so we have started discussions with The FA about the PFA running regional UEFA A Licence courses for PFA members, we are hopeful this will be achieved in the near future.

EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

The PFA deliver Equality and Diversity Training to clubs across the Premier League and English Football League.

The PFA continue to fund and support anti-discrimination campaigns and organisations including Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card.

The On The Board programme seeks to address the lack of diversity on boards and is an opportunity for players and ex-players, primarily but not exclusively those from an ethnic minority background, to gain governance knowledge and experience in order to change the philosophy of football management for the better.

The PFA and The FA have launched a three year In Pursuit of Progress project to ensure BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) coaching placements across all England teams.

DEMENTIA

Neurological problems in later life – which may be connected to concussion, head injuries and heading the ball – have been on our agenda for the last 20 years.

In 2001 the PFA, on the advice of The FA’s Medical Committee, agreed to part fund along with The FA, a ten year study into the neurological neuro-imaging and neuro-psychological effects of playing professional football. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control this study was reduced to a five year project. However, the study was published in 2016 in the Brain Journal.

The PFA has now commissioned, with The FA, an independent study led by Dr William Stewart of Glasgow University, titled ‘Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk’ (FIELD). The research began in January 2018 and will compare data from around 15,000 former professional footballers with information about the general population.

The PFA have also funded ongoing research into head injuries in sport by the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation, examining jockeys and footballers. This year the PFA also confirmed we are working with Drake Foundation study and will recruit 300 former players to help examine the link between heading the ball or concussions and long-term cognitive function.

The PFA have produced a guide to help members who have received a diagnosis of dementia – either of a family member or themselves. It has been designed to give useful information on the disease, practical first steps and tips on living day to day with dementia.

The PFA continue to offer help to all members and their families in a variety of ways. If any members or their loved ones are looking for support, please call the PFA on 0161 236 0575.

PENSION

The Professional Footballers Pension Scheme provides each current professional with a pension payment of £5,208 per season at a cost of approximately £20million per year.