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The Brewery Field set to host ground-breaking charity fixture

Spennymoor Town are set to host a unique and ground-breaking fixture in association with Head For Change and Solan Connor Fawcett Trust which will feature NO heading.

The game will involve a host of former professionals and aims to show how 11-a-side football works with heading restrictions and continue an “ongoing conversation about the safety of players.”

The match, organised by charity Head for Change, will only allow headers in the penalty box for the first half and then restrict all heading during the second half.

Head for Change’s team on the day will be made up of former players who have connections with Middlesbrough FC, while a mix of Spennymoor Town and former professionals and semi-professional players will be on show for Team Solan.

Press and coverage on the fixture has gathered serious momentum in recent days, with national newspapers, radio stations and websites covering the story.

Head For Change Co-Founder Judith Gates, who’s husband Bill Gates played for Spennymoor United, has been the driving force behind the project.

She said: “When I founded Head For Change I approached Debra Swinburn, Board Member at Spennymoor Town, and asked is there any chance of Bill’s first club hosting a game in support of the charity.

“Bill and I were both school kids together at Spennymoor Grammar School, where he played for both the school and Spennymoor United. It’s held a very special place in his heart.

Gates, who also played for Middlesbrough during his career, has a neurodegenerative condition.

The link between himself and Spennymoor Town Chief Executive Brad Groves is another element to the story which further deepens the emotion behind the game.

“Many years ago Bill owned a range of sports stores and he had a warehouse which served those stores, which is where Brad worked with Bill.

“Brad at that time had aspirations to become a professional footballer and he was extremely appreciative to Bill for giving him the time off to follow that particular dream.

“The very fact that so further on in life that Brad is able to Bill is absolutely fantastic. It’s almost like life goes full circle.

“It’s important to stress that neither of the charities are aiming to ban heading from the game, but what we recognise from the conversations that are going on amongst the press, at training grounds and in pubs is what will the game look like if we reduce heading.

“Head For Change is committed to protecting the players and protecting the game, and we believe the FA will be interested in the results we discover from the experiment.”

Professor Willie Stewart from Glasgow University has published research showing that footballers are up to five times more likely to suffer from dementia than the general population.

He believes that neurodegenerative brain disease is linked to heading after further studies showed that defenders were more at risk than goalkeepers, who do not head the ball.

Gates said: “The area we are looking to raise money for is research, because we want to look at investigating not just the causes of sports related neurodegenerative disease, but look for a potential cure.

“If you want to come along and see a unique experiment and think further on how we can protect our players and the future of the game then we welcome you to The Brewery Field on Sunday 26 September.”

The Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust, which will represent Head For Change’s opponents, was launched to help those touched by cancer.

The charity, which already has strong links with the club and is a beacon in the community, aims to create a place which will support individuals and families in County Durham and Darlington who are affected by cancer.

Solan said: “Myself and Judith are very passionate about what we do and both have genuine and personal reasons for having a charity.

“My story is something that happened to me a long time ago, where as sadly for Judith and Bill they are living with it now.

“The game is set to be the biggest yet for us and we have managed to attract some of the best names to date including Gavin McCann, Craig Hignett, Danny Graham and a host of former Spennymoor and Middlesbrough players.”

The game takes place at The Brewery Field on Sunday 26 September at 3pm.

Turnstiles open at 12pm, with The Neil Adams Sports Bar and both Fan Zones in full operation.

Admission is £5 for adults and £1 for concessions (60+ and Under 18).

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