FA says sorry to widow of West Bromwich Albion legend Jeff Astle
The Football Association today apologised to the widow of West Bromwich Albion and England legend Jeff Astle – as Baggies fans plan to hold a minute's applause at the next match in support of a campaign launched by his family.
Mr Astle died in 2002 aged 59, from serious brain damage sustained through repeatedly heading heavy leather balls throughout his career. He played for the Baggies from 1964 to 1974.
His family have launched a Justice for Jeff campaign and have called on the FA to recognise what happened to Mr Astle, who had three daughters, and to launch research into the effects of heading footballs.
The FA promised a 10-year study into the effects of heading footballs, but nothing has yet been published. It has now apologised to Mr Astle's widow, Laraine, about its failure to keep her informed about its work.
Mrs Astle, aged 69 and who lives in Derbyshire, said: "When Jeff was diagnosed they never acknowledged the findings of the post mortem.
"The coroner said there was no doubt that heading heavy footballs killed Jeff, which we knew from the day he was diagnosed. But the FA have never acknowledged that."
Mrs Astle said she understood that at the time the FA would launch a 10-year research investigation into the affects of heading balls.
She said: "Until they acknowledge what killed Jeff, that they fully take responsibility, that the football did kill him, then they will not see the need to do the research.
"Once they do that, they have a duty of care, not just to those of Jeff's generation, not just the players of today, but to those little ones coming through now, to protect them. We need justice for Jeff," she said.
An FA spokesman today said: "We deeply regret any upset caused to the Astle family due to our lack of contact during this period."
The organisation said it would speak to the Astle family about its work as soon as possible.
John Homer, chairman of West Bromwich Albion Supporters Club, said: "The man is a legend – he was always known as the King."