The Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers’ Association are in talks with a charity backed by Sir John Major and Sir Alex Ferguson to begin a sheltered accommodation scheme that could be extended into dementia care for former players.
The Reposm Sporting Housing Trust, a not for profit social housing charity chaired by the Surrey County Cricket Chairman Michael Soper, is already raising funds for a flat-building scheme to provide low-rent accommodation for former sports people in need.
Soper, though, is acutely aware of new research from the University of Glasgow which has proven a link between former professional footballers and dementia and hopes this first project will be the start of properly phased and appropriate care for former sporting heroes.
Premier League clubs will consider the research, with the FA now pushing for an industry-wide fund to cover care-home costs for former players.
“You could have different grades easily”, Soper said. “Sheltered accommodation is obviously for people who have fallen on hard times – and there are thousands of these – but if this could be linked into the dementia care there is no reason why it couldn’t follow on.”
Soper is also the voluntary Chair of the Cyril Woods Memorial Trust which provides sheltered housing in Dorset for retired artists, musicians and craftspeople. They have facilities that are relevant to their specific former profession, including additional communal areas for art and music.
“We have found that bringing people together of like-mindedness in professions is great for them.” Soper said “They look after each other. They are not left. Loneliness can be one of the contributors to dementia.”
David Pleat, who serves on the LMA Board, has been gathering support after seeing how some of his former colleagues are suffering various physical ad mental difficulties, including dementia.
Ferguson has described the idea as a “caring way of looking after those less fortunate sportspeople who have fallen on hard times” and hopes that the initiative of Reposm “will receive maximum support.”
Gordon Taylor, the PFA Chief Executive, has held discussions with Soper about a potential first scheme or around 16 flats which, with sufficient funding, could then be extended across the country.