'Justice for Jeff' campaign launched

Dorset Echo: SAD LOSS: Jeff Astle SAD LOSS: Jeff Astle

A CAMPAIGN for an inquiry into the link between heading footballs and degenerative brain disease has been launched by the family of a former Weymouth FC star striker.

The family of Jeff Astle, who played for the Terras in the 1975-1976 season, launched the “Justice for Jeff” campaign to demand research is conducted by the English Football Association.

The family is now calling on supporters of Astle’s former clubs to get behind the campaign and to pressurise the FA in to holding an independent inquiry.

Astle died aged 59 of degenerative brain disease in 2002 and the coroner ruled that successive mental traumas – caused by heading heavy leather footballs when he was a player – caused the damage.

Following the coroner’s ruling, the FA said it would conduct a 10 year study into the links between heading footballs and brain disease – but the study was cancelled with no research published.

Dawn Astle, Jeff Astle’s daughter, said: “We can’t describe how let down we feel, it’s a real kick in the teeth. The delay is not fair for us, or for dad.

“The FA said they would conduct the research and publish the information, but they never have.”

Mrs Astle said the objectives of the campaign were for research to be commissioned by the FA, for the FA to recognise that heading the ball killed her dad and to get help and recognition for both professional and amateur footballers who were suffering from the same issue.

Mrs Astle added: “They never discuss whether there are links between heading the ball and trauma to the brain.

“Weymouth fans can help support the campaign by lobbying their local MP, by showing support for the issue during games, and help keep the pressure on the FA.”

Adrian MacDonald, chairman of the Weymouth Supporters Association, pledged its support to the campaign.

Mr MacDonald said: “Any kind of research that can improve player safety is positive and needed.”

A spokesperson for the FA said: “The Football Association is working with other sports with higher prevalence of head injuries towards an education programme to allow safe participation in any sport. We deeply regret any upset caused to the Astle family in our failure to stay in contact with them and we can only apologise for this.”

For more information on the campaign, the family have set up a Facebook page called Justice for Jeff Astle.

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