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Football chiefs aware of concussion risk for decades, court told

England’s Football Association “was always fully aware” of the risk of concussion and brain injury to players as early as the 1980s, but failed to take steps to improve safety, London’s High Court has been told.

Lawyers representing several former players and their families have said in court documents that minutes from an FA committee meeting in 1983 “indicate” that it knew of the risk posed by head injuries, “but failed to take action to reduce the risk of players to the lowest reasonable level”.

Ten former professional footballers, and the families of a further seven who have died, are suing the English FA, the Football Association of Wales, the English Football League (EFL) and the sport’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board.

They include the family of 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, who died in 2020 after suffering from dementia and was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain condition believed to be linked to repeated blows to the head.

In the documents, seen by Britain’s PA news agency, lawyers say the four organisations were “negligent and in breach of their duty of care” owed to the ex-players, who “suffered permanent long-term neurological injuries” as a result.

Susan Rodway, representing the former players, said: “The fact of long-term neurological complications and conditions arising from concussive and sub-concussive blows to the head in a contact sport like football was well established at all material times, and the defendants ought to have known of the same.”

A hearing in the case is expected later this year, with the court being told in January that up to 75 players could eventually be involved in the legal action.

The court documents state the claimants suffered injuries “due to cumulative blows to the head” received from directly heading the ball and indirectly “both in match play and in training”.

An FA spokesman said: “We are not able to comment on ongoing legal proceedings. We continue to take a leading role in reviewing and improving the safety of our game.”

An EFL spokesman said: “As a result of ongoing proceedings, we are unable to pass substantial comment on the matter. However, it is important to acknowledge that prolonging this process any more than is necessary is completely unfair on those impacted.”

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