Ex-Norwich City striker attacks PFA boss for leaving players 'rotting and dying' from dementia
PUBLISHED: 09:36 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:22 28 March 2019
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A former Norwich City player has launched a scathing attack on an outgoing union boss for not doing enough to help "hundreds and thousands" of ex-footballers with dementia.
Chris Sutton, who played with the Canaries in the 1990s, said the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) had failed in its duty of care to former players with dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease caused by repetitive brain trauma from which his father Mike suffers.
Mike, now 74, represented Norwich City between 1963 and 1966 before teaching at Hellesdon High School.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday Mr Sutton levelled criticism at Gordon Taylor, the PFA’s chief executive, who he said had left ex-players “rotting and dying” from dementia through his inaction.
He said Mr Taylor had not given a proper explanation for why testing into the link between heading footballs and dementia had been stopped, adding: “I honestly don’t know how he sleeps at night.”
Mr Taylor is set to depart his £2m-a-year role after 38 years in charge of the trade union. PFA chairman Pen Purkiss and its management committee also announced they were standing down at the union’s annual general meeting in Manchester this week.
On Twitter Mr Sutton said: “Gordon Taylor’s role as head of his trade union was to protect, improve and represent his members to the best of his power.
“With regards to my dad Mike and hundreds and thousands of ex players and current players and dementia and CTE he has failed them.”
In a column for the Daily Mail, Mr Sutton said Mr Taylor had “never flagged up” that testing by the PFA and the FA into a link between heading a football and CTE – started 18 years ago – had failed.
In his column Mr Sutton praised chairman Mr Purkiss, who he said “wants to put research into dementia at the forefront of the union’s agenda” – but said he had been “barred from running for the top job for five years”, as Mr Taylor has vowed to stay on until an independent review into the union is concluded.
Mr Taylor has admitted to making mistakes during his time at the helm of the PFA but rejects claims he failed ex-players struggling with dementia-related illnesses.
He told Press Association Sport that said the union was “more than prepared to play a part” in supporting ex-players through health problems and listed the work it has done in modifying houses, respite care and paying medical bills.
He said: “Can the PFA resolve the world’s dementia issue? No, that’s going to take more than the PFA but it’s only right that we look after former members as best we can and take part in research. But that’s got to involve FIFA as well, as they have much bigger resources than us.”
The FA and PFA are now investing £100,000 a year each in a study looking to see if ex-players have a higher incidence of dementia than the general population.