Football authorities set to grant industry-wide dementia fund

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PFA Managing Director Maheta Molango Says Dementia Support Situation “Urgent”

A “draft action plan” of a common fund for the care of dementia is about to be approved by the main authorities of English football.

The Premier League, English Football League (EFL), Football Association (FA) and Professional Footballers Association (PFA) have tentatively agreed on an industry-wide fund to support players with dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.

It has been two years since the PFA asked for this kind of support.

But the union’s new chief executive told the BBC that the commitment on the level of support has yet to be decided, as “the scale of the problem” needs to be understood.

Maheta Molango said the parameters need to be worked out with families, but predicts it will be more about “bridging the gap” to help families rather than covering larger costs like home care.

When asked when the financial aid would begin, Molango said he considered the matter “urgent” but could not estimate a timeline.

“Internally, the PFA will launch a very comprehensive data transformation project,” he said.

“At the same time, what we have proposed to the other stakeholders is to launch a specific data project, linked to identify the extent of the problem, and I see no reason why this project cannot be launched in the next weeks.

“At the same time, the PFA wants to be a serious and sophisticated institution, which does things based on science.

“Tying a precise schedule is difficult for me at this point.

“But when you see how some of these limbs are deteriorating day by day with this terrible disease, you can’t wait.”

He added: “We will push for this to happen as soon as possible.”

In October 2019, the PFA called on the Premier League to help put in place a sectoral approach to costs of care.

It followed a study that showed former professional footballers were three and a half times more likely to die from dementia than people of the same age group in the general population.

The PFA has been criticized in recent years for its approach to brain damage in football.

Late last year, the players’ union set up a dementia task force to examine the problem of brain damage in football, involving Dawn Astle, the widow of Jeff Astle, and Rachel Walden, the daughter of Rob Taylor.

The PFA charity provides means-tested grants for respite care, home care and home adaptation to families affected by dementia.

In a statement, the PFA said full details of the fund would be revealed “once families of footballers living with dementia confirm that the proposal meets their needs.”

“What we hear from families is that no one is asking for everything to be paid for; they are all very aware that we are talking about huge costs, especially home care,” Molango said.

“They say to help us bridge the gap. Some of them have had to stop working to take care of their loved ones.”

Molango said he was “surprised” by the collaboration between football authorities, but attributed it to a “change of guard”.

He added: “My perception is that the commitment is strong and that there is a real will to resolve this issue.”

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