Players in Tuesday’s international friendly between England and Australia wore shirts without their names on to raise awareness for dementia. This was done to highlight the ratio of people born in the UK who will develop the disease, and to draw attention to the confusion and memory loss experienced by those with dementia. The match has been designated an ‘Alzheimer’s Society International’ and a mural was unveiled at Brentford’s Gtech Community Stadium of key moments in the Lionesses’ recent history. After the match, the nameless shirts will be auctioned off to raise funds for research.
The Football Association has announced plans to extend its official partnership with Alzheimer’s Society until 2024. This follows a group of former football, rugby league and rugby union players taking legal action claiming they suffered brain injuries playing their respective sports, which has grown to 378. This includes relatives of England’s 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, who died in 2020 and was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a form of degenerative disease dementia believed to be caused by repeated blows. Research in 2019 showed that ex-footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.
In response, the FA and world governing body Fifa launched a study into reducing the risk of dementia in former footballers last year. However, last month the Premier League said it was “disappointed” that a trial of temporary concussion substitutes had been rejected by football’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board (Ifab). Brain injury charity Headway also criticised Uefa in September for not allowing concussion substitutes in the Women’s Champions League after Arsenal and England’s Beth Mead suffered a head injury against Ajax.
Over the past two seasons, the FA partnership with Alzheimer’s Society has raised over £400,000. This money has gone towards raising awareness and research into dementia, as well as helping to prepare England for the upcoming World Cup which kicks off in July and is co-hosted by Tuesday’s opponents Australia.