The Brewery Field will play host to a number of former professional footballers, global science figures and members of the national media for a second no heading football match to tackle sports-related dementia.
North East footballing names including Robbie Stockdale, Curtis Fleming, Colin Cooper, Tommy Butler, Darren Holloway and Tony McMahon will run out at National League North club Spennymoor Town FC on Sunday 25th September.
September 2021 saw charity Head For Change host the world’s first no heading football match. It was covered internationally in Europe, Australia, India and the USA, as well as domestically, due to its scientific and sporting significance.
The annual event returns to Spennymoor this month and will feature a new set of rules whereby no heading of a ball is allowed from any set pieces.
The former footballers will also be joined by three ex-rugby players. Former Leeds Rhinos player Stevie Ward will be joined by former Saracens full-back Dan Scarborough and former Wales international Alix Popham. Both Popham and Scarborough have been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Ward was forced to retire early due to a concussion-related injury.
Popham has filed legal claims against rugby authorities for injuries including an estimated 100,000 sub-concussions in his 14-year career.
The match has been dubbed “The Billion Pound Game” by organisers due to the estimated cost of sports-related dementia care over the next 30 years in the UK. It will be played between a Head For Change XI and a team from the Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust.
As well as sportsmen, the match will feature an appearance from global brain health authority, Doctor Willie Stewart, who will play in goal for the Head For Change team.
Dr Stewart published groundbreaking research which showed footballers are five times more likely to suffer from dementia than the general public.
He will be holding a pre-match education seminar in the Club’s hospitality lounge about sports-related dementia for the benefit of the media and Spennymoor Town’s youth coaches.
Head For Change Co-Founder Judith Gates, whose husband Bill Gates played for Middlesbrough and Spennymoor and is now living with dementia, has spoken about the progress being made on the agenda since last year’s match.
She said: “The conversations we have had with the government and the Football Association have been encouraging over the last year.
“There is much more awareness of this growing issue both within the game and the general public and we received phenomenal coverage of last year’s match.
“We are now involved in at least one documentary on the subject, and I am working with medical authorities to discuss solutions to a problem that we estimate will cost one billion pounds in treatment over the next three decades.
“Head For Change is in contact with more than 100 former professional sportspeople who have been diagnosed with dementia and we will be demonstrating the scale of the problem with a special parade before kick-off.
“I would like to thank those who are supporting us for the match this year, including Spennymoor Town FC and their owner Brad Groves, who actually used to be an employee of Bill. Equally, Mark Solan from Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust, who is crucial in bringing our former professional footballers to be a part of the day and the conversation.”
The cancer trust is a joint beneficiary of the proceeds on the day and has held charity matches at Spennymoor for a decade, with proceeds being used to support families in County Durham living with cancer.
Founder of the charity, Mark Solan, said: “We have managed to attract bigger names every year and 2022 is no different.
“I would like to thank all of the ex-professionals who are giving their time to this ongoing sporting experiment to raise awareness of an issue which will affect their fellow professionals.
“Our charity works with families who have been affected by cancer diagnoses and there are a growing number of families in need of similar support in the neurodegenerative disease sphere.
“I would urge the public to come along to the match, which will be an exciting spectacle and an enjoyable day out as always. But it will also be an educational opportunity.”
The match will kick off at 15:00 and tickets cost £5 for adults and £2 for under 18s. Digital tickets can be purchased by clicking here now.