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Dawn Astle and Rachel Walden to advise PFA on neurodegenerative care provision

Premier League Captain's Statement

Dementia campaigners will work alongside the PFA during an initial six-month advisory role

The PFA is pleased to announce that Dawn Astle and Rachel Walden will be supporting the players' union on an initial six-month advisory basis, to help shape the neurodegenerative care provision for former members and their families.

Over the last few months, the PFA has been listening to members’ families, who have been living with dementia, including several constructive meetings with Dawn and Rachel. We have been learning from their personal experiences and collating feedback on how the union can better support families moving forward.

PFA Assistant Chief Executive, Simon Barker said: "The PFA has publicly committed to improving the support provisions for families living with dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. This is a first and essential step, in trying to provide a comprehensive and holistic service.

"Dawn and Rachel's insight and experience will be invaluable to help families both now and in the future. The onus is now on the PFA, to ensure that we fully support them in the next six months and take this opportunity to put in place a long-term care structure and approach."

Dawn, the daughter of former England and West Bromwich Albion forward Jeff Astle, has campaigned tirelessly since her father died of CTE in 2002. Alongside her work with The Jeff Astle Foundation, she has supported around 200 families of former players living with dementia.

Rachel Walden was one of those people supported by Dawn, when her father Rod Taylor, a wing-half for Portsmouth, passed away at the age of 74. Following a post-mortem examination, Rod was diagnosed by Dr Willie Stewart as also having suffered from CTE.

The initial advisory roles will include helping the PFA provide immediate support, guidance and advice to families who have received a dementia diagnosis. There will also be a remit to help the union scope a permanent neurodegenerative in-house team and family liaison support.

Other areas of focus will include building an accurate picture of how many players are currently living with dementia and strengthening the application to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, which aims to have brain degeneration in footballers defined as an industrial disease.

Dawn Astle said: "As the players' union, the PFA is uniquely placed to make a real difference to those families living with dementia. I will be challenging the PFA to use their voice and influence more strongly within the game, and to take the lead on the issue moving forward.

"I personally will continue to do everything I can, with the support of The Jeff Astle Foundation, to push dementia to the top of the agenda within football. I want recognition and tangible support for former players and their families living with dementia now, but also to strengthen protection for current players and future generations." 

The PFA will continue to work closely with representatives from families, current players and specialists in the field. Following recent discussions with families and present players, it is envisaged that the focus will be on four key areas:

  • Protection of current players. While more research is needed to establish exact causal links as to why footballers are at greater risk of neurodegenerative diseases, based on the evidence available now, football needs proactive and practical interventions to give current players protection.
  • Former player care. Dawn Astle and Rachel Walden will lead in this area, with a remit to scope a dedicated department within the PFA.
  • Community. The PFA has already committed its support to the Alzheimer's Society's Sports United Against Dementia campaign and has a long-standing relationship with Sporting Memories. The PFA's Community team will look to utilise relationships with clubs nationally to help create dementia-friendly environments and activity groups.
  • Game-wide strategy. We want a global strategy for dealing with dementia and neurodegenerative diseases in football. We will continue working domestically with the existing Research Task Force alongside other stakeholders in the game, whilst also using our voice within the World Players' Association, FIFPRO, to attempt to push this to the fore on the global agenda.

Contact the PFA

Any current or former player who has received a diagnosis of dementia, or any neurodegenerative condition, can access support through the PFA and PFA Charity.

Support includes financial assistance towards provisions such as home improvements, respite care, independent benefits advice, counselling provisions for family members and help with care costs.

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