BCFA x Alzheimer's Society

Alzheimer’s Society launches crucial programme in the West Midlands

Birmingham County FA has teamed up with leading dementia charity to provide dedicated support for its 100,0000 participants and staff

Alzheimer’s Society has partnered with the Birmingham County FA to offer help and support to any member of the football family who has been diagnosed with dementia or caring for a loved one within Birmingham, Warwickshire and The Black Country.

The new referral pathways into Alzheimer’s Society services make it easier and quicker for players, coaches, referees and volunteers across the West Midlands to access support or guidance needed when concerns arise about themselves or a loved one.

Participants will benefit from practical and emotional support from Alzheimer’s Society frontline specialists, helping them live well with dementia while preparing better for the future. Alzheimer’s Society services have been used more than 4.2 million times in the past year across the UK, proving to be a lifeline for thousands. Birmingham County FA are responsible for the promoting, developing and governing football within their boundary and their 1,100 clubs and 5,100 teams.

Birmingham County FA Facility & Investment Lead, Joe Robinson said “The partnership with Alzheimer’s Society will enable us to better support our employees, referees and those who play, coach and volunteer when concerns are raised. Anyone involved with football across the Region can be referred towards the Alzheimer’s Society for memory assessments, further support and guidance.”

“I became a Dementia Champion and wanted to lead on this programme to increase awareness so anyone across the West Midlands football sphere knows where to turn if they want guidance for themselves, a friend or relative. Having first-hand support is vital when navigating through the dementia journey, and Birmingham County FA is happy to be that first comforting and supportive contact for anyone within our local football community.

“Not everyone with symptoms seeks a memory assessment or guidance soon enough, but we hope this acts as an extra pathway for people in the area to step forward. Admitting you have concerns and seeking an assessment is daunting and often put-off for too long. But if a person’s first discussion is with Birmingham County FA in an environment that they already feel comfortable in, it may encourage or reassure them about the process.

“Many people fear going to a doctor and medical settings can be overwhelming. This initiative will allow people to have difficult but necessary initial conversations with fellow football people in a relaxed environment.”

“Professional Football Clubs across the West Midlands are also doing a lot to support those living with Dementia and related conditions. If you’d like to find out more about these services, then you can do so by contacting joe.robinson@birminghamfa.com.”

Emma Ruscoe lives with her husband Simon in the West Midlands, Simon is a football enthusiast who was diagnosed with young onset dementia in 2020, they both welcome this initiative.

Simon Ruscoe and his son at Villa Park

Emma said, “Hopefully this new scheme will help broaden the conversation about dementia and challenge the idea that it only affects older people. Simon has young onset dementia and was diagnosed in his early fifties. The link with sport might make it easier for people to chat about their symptoms and get the help and support they need sooner.”

Simon who worked in IT, has been a lifelong Aston Villa supporter and finds his interest in sport gives him a positive focus and a lot to look forward to. Simon added,

“I have always been an Aston Villa supporter. It was my dad who got me into it. Me, my dad and my brother used to go to the Villa ground together. It is a family thing for us. Our boys are both Villa fans now as well.”

“When we get tickets, I still go to games at Villa Park. I love the atmosphere football is just fantastic for me and I have always loved it. I don’t feel any different since my diagnosis. The crowd doesn’t have a negative effect on me. It’s just a big buzz.

“I’m still on a high after a game, even if we’ve lost. It’s brilliant and it makes me feel really good. I make sure I have a rest the day before as it does take a lot out of me, so it’s what we need to do for me to enjoy it. Having football in my life really helps me and gives me something to look forward to.”

Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, Kate Lee, added: “Sport should be unforgettable. We want to make sure those who are part of the beautiful game are not side-lined due to their diagnosis and can continue to live fulfilled and meaningful lives by receiving the right support from day one.

“No-one should face a dementia diagnosis alone, nor suffer in silence, which is why we are proud to be working closely with Birmingham County FA to embed our services and make sure thousands more have somewhere to turn to during one of the most frightening and toughest times in their lives.”

The partnership with Alzheimer’s Society is also raising funds for support services. Alzheimer’s Society will work with The FA to provide research expertise and ensure The FA is prioritising and funding world-class research to best protect players for generations to come. The charity has also directly funded its own research with former football and rugby players, as part of the PREVENT study.

To find out more about Alzheimer’s Society’s partnership with The FA, or donate, visit alzheimers.org.uk/FA

Anyone worried about their memory can download the Alzheimer’s Society symptoms checklist, endorsed by the Royal College of GPs, to support people to get a diagnosis.