Campaign to ban heading in football backed by Ally MacLeod's daughter

Ally MacLeod, who managed the national team to the 1978 World Cup, died in 2004.

Former Scotland manager Ally MacLeod’s daughter backs campaign to ban heading in football SNS Group

The daughter of former Scotland manager Ally MacLeod is among a host of names backing a campaign to ban heading in football.

Gail Pirie has joined a host of families of former players who have suffered from the disease to call for a complete ban on heading as they believe it was the cause of their dementia diagnoses.

MacLeod, who took the national team to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, died in 2004 after a battle with the illness.

Amanda Kopel, widow of Dundee United hero Frank Kopel, has also backed the Heading Out campaign which launched on Monday with the aim of changing the rules and protecting future generations.

John Stiles, whose father Nobby won the World Cup with England in 1966 and died after a diagnosis of dementia, has also backed the move.

It comes after recent academic studies found that footballers are three and a half times more likely to receive a diagnosis of a neuropathological disease, and five times more likely if they were a defender.

Heading Out has been formed by dementia campaigner, author and former STV News journalist Mike Edwards, and will lobby the game’s authorities to change the rules.

Gail said: “We as a family have no doubt that dad’s Alzheimer’s was caused by repeated heading the ball and it must be stopped to protect future players.”

Echoing her views, Amanda Kopel said: “The game has a duty of care to players. I wouldn’t wish what Frank went through on my worst enemy and the rules have to change.”

The founder, who retired from his journalism career to care for his elderly mother Margaret after her dementia diagnosis said: “Heading the ball is a slow but steady killer and has to be removed from the game. We learn from an early age not to handle the ball, surely we can learn not to head it either.

“Scotland has led the way by banning children from heading the ball in training and adult players from heading in the 24 hours before and after a game. I’d like to see the practice banned altogether after the 2030 World Cup, which I think is a reasonable deadline.

“Not heading the ball will save players’ lives.”

The campaign is also supported by NHS Consultant, Dr Michael Crawford, whose father Bobby is living with a diagnosis of dementia after a career playing as a defender in the Scottish Junior leagues.

He said, ‘It’s beyond dispute now that heading the ball causes CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) otherwise known as a brain injury and it’s causing problems for players in later life. Sometimes my dad played three games on a Saturday and headed the ball a lot. His dementia diagnosis reflects that all too clearly.’

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