Former journalist to start dementia charity aiming to ban heading in football

Mike Edwards hoped to ban heading in football. Image: Sandy McCook / DC Thomson

He hopes this move would reduce the number of players being diagnosed with the disease.

Mr Edwards has seen first-hand how damaging dementia can be to those suffering from it, as well as those surrounding them.

His mum Margaret – who was a nurse and midwife at Raigmore – died in his arms after spending the last few years of her life battling the disease.

The 57-year-old believes dementia is all too prevalent in Scotland without football adding to the numbers of diagnoses.

‘I grew up watching Scottish heroes like Denis Law and Billy McNeill,” said Mr Edwards.

“Denis has received a diagnosis and dementia took Billy’s life, among many. I want to stop players suffering in the same way.

Mike Edwards worked as a journalist for 40 years. Image: Sandy McCook / DC Thomson

“My mother never headed a football in her life but I cared for her at home by myself and she died in my arms so I have seen at first hand what dementia does to someone and have experienced the impact dementia has on their family.”

Changing the rules

Mr Edwards said studies have shown that there are links between football and dementia, and he believes changes need to be made.

‘There was great news this week with footballers being told not to head the ball in the days before and after games but I believe it has to go further,” he said.

“Football has to change to stop increasing the number of cases of dementia. Heading the ball is a slow but certain killer and I will be trying to get the game’s authorities to alter rules and players and coaches to amend attitudes.

“The game must adapt so young players grow up learning not to head the ball in the same way they learn not to handle it.”

He hopes to launch his charity in the new year, lobbying sporting authorities to change rules.

Several big sporting names have already expressed an interest in getting involved, including Gail Pirie, daughter of Scotland manager Ally MacLeod who died after a diagnosis of dementia – which his family believes resulted from repeated concussions and heading footballs.

‘I just want to give something back’

Mr Edwards started as a journalist for The Press and Journal in 1989, going on to work for STV before retiring in 2019.

He plans for the charity to be funded by the publication of his new book You’re Seeing It! – which tells the story of his time as a reporter, his service in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Reserve officer and his years spent caring for his mother.

“I was a journalist for 40 years and my life and career were all about me,” said Mr Edwards.

“I was all about getting the big story on the news, working towards my next Army promotion or writing another book. Now, corny as it sounds, I just want to give something back.

“I spend my days working for charities and doing all I can for veterans and those touched by dementia. Now I am starting my own charity to do just that.”

Now living in Helensburgh, he is a trustee and ambassador for several charities and is a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire.

Mr Edwards was made an OBE for public and charitable services in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honours List.

Top of page picture: Dementia sufferer Billy McNeill of Celtic and Scotland with the late US Ambassador Frank Meehan, who spent his retirement in Helensburgh and who died aged 98 earlier this year. Picture by Bill Heaney

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