Football faces a number of problems going forward as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but there are historic problems that were prevalent long before the very survival of some clubs was threatened because of this awful virus.
I refer to racism in football and the sport’s dementia scandal; neither problem is about to go away even though it seems many would like that to happen.
Racism has been prevalent in the game for many years and while some, small, steps have been taken to rid football of the evil abuse aimed at so many players simply because of the colour of their skin, it’s never really gone away.
I remember the time when clubs were urged to get behind the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign for one day each season. One day, when racism happens EVERY day!
Hopefully the tide is beginning to turn with many high profile players leading the campaign to rid football, and society, of this malaise.
Dementia in football has been highlighted as a problem within the game by Dawn Astle, who has campaigned tirelessly for the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) to recognise the link between heading a football and dementia in footballers.
Dawn’s father, Jeff, died in 2002 aged just 59 and was found to have died of a degenerative brain disease linked to heading a football.
She has been supported in her efforts by a number of former players, most notably Chris Sutton and by a national newspaper campaign demanding further investigations into dementia/neurodegenerative disease in footballers and how to tackle the problem and subsequent care of players affected. Rather belatedly, it seems to many, the PFA appear to have been stung into action.
A recent report highlighted the plight of former Rovers player Hugh Ryden, one of five brothers. Like Hugh, two of those brothers were professional footballers. All three received a dementia diagnosis, Hugh being the latest one.
The two brothers who didn’t play professional football were not affected by dementia. Hugh played just eight games for Rovers, in 1962/63, and scored four goals though went on to enjoy a playing career that also took in Chester and Stockport County.
These topics deserve far more space that just a few paragraphs in these pages and, hopefully, football’s governing bodies and member clubs will work together to improve things going forward.