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Dementia in football: Joe Kinnear daughter says players and families let down

Written by on May 27, 2024

Doffman says that regardless of whether the football industry ultimately accepts that there is a causal link between the sport and dementia, it must do more to support players who are diagnosed with brain disease.

“Even if they felt it wasn’t linked, they have a duty of care,” she said.

Towards the end of Kinnear’s life, his family applied for financial assistance from a dedicated support fund to help with the cost of his care – which was several thousand pounds a month.

“We didn’t like to ask for anything, but it gets to a point where sometimes you need a bit of help. I wish I hadn’t bothered. I wish I hadn’t lowered myself,” says Doffman.

“When Dad became ill, it was like ‘you’re done’. We received very little in support. A lot of the families feel they’ve been totally neglected in their time of need.

“His generation have been really been let down and left behind. So many are struggling financially. Salaries were so low. It’s hard enough, the most stressful time, and then to worry when the invoice comes in from the care home. This is a multi-billion pound industry. It seems so cruel and unfair just to leave people to it.”

Last year the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and the Premier League launched a new brain health fund, with an initial £1m available to assist former players and their families who have been impacted by dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions.

While the two bodies would not comment on the specific details of any individual case, they believe they have made the application process as straightforward as possible, and said financial assistance was “directed to those most in need” with decisions made by an ‘Independent Grants Panel’.

The PFA says £800,000 of financial support has so far been given to more than 70 families of former players, with an additional £500,000 ring-fenced for next season.

More than 200 families are receiving other forms of practical and emotional support, with the PFA saying they are keen to encourage more to come forward.

The football authorities have previously said that they cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings but that they take the welfare of players seriously. The FA has said it plays a “leading role in reviewing and improving the safety” of the game, including supporting “multiple projects in order to gain a greater understanding of this area through objective, robust and thorough research”.

The players or their families involved in the litigation initiated their legal claim two years ago. It also includes the family of 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, who died in 2020, and had prostate cancer and advanced dementia.

His brain was diagnosed as having chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a form of dementia that is believed to be caused by repeated blows.

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