Football: Dementia 'scandal' must be addressed urgently, says Stiles family

Nobby Stiles had been diagnosed with dementia, as were many of his teammates. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - The family of England's World Cup winning midfielder Nobby Stiles, who died aged 78 last month, has urged authorities to address the "scandal" of dementia in the professional game which have left many yesteryear heroes struggling after retirement.

Stiles, who played on the World Cup winning team in 1966, had been diagnosed with dementia, as were many of his teammates such as Ray Wilson, Jack Charlton and most recently Manchester United great Bobby Charlton.

"How can it be that these players are left to struggle when the Premier League receives £3 billion (S$5.3 billion) a year?" John Stiles, Nobby's son, said in a statement.

"How can it be right that some of the heroes of 1966 had to sell their medals to provide for the families? How can it be that these players are left needing help when their own union has tens of millions of pounds available?

"These older players have largely been forgotten and many are in ill health... I hope dad's death is the catalyst for this scandal to be addressed."

The Professional Footballers' Association said they were "evaluating ways to improve the services and care provided", adding they would liaise with families of players on how they can be of greater help while also funding research.

Geoff Hurst, England's hat-trick hero from the 1966 final, said heading the ball often in practice was dangerous, adding that kids should not be doing it at all until they are old enough.

"The danger for me is the amount of times you head the ball in practice and not in a game," Hurst told The Telegraph. "Going back, I wouldn't do the practice. I would cut that out tomorrow.

"And look at kids, their brains are nowhere near as developed as adults. I don't think stopping heading would be detrimental to the quality of grassroots football for kids."

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