Sutton and Stiles' son slam the PFA's dementia claims as fake news

Chris Sutton and John Stiles – son of England World Cup hero Nobby – slam the PFA’s dementia claims as ‘FAKE NEWS’, while the union’s taskforce is in tatters as campaigners walk away

  • Chris Sutton and John Stiles were infuriated by comments from PFA on Tuesday 
  • Simon Barker said no family that approached PFA for support were turned down
  • Sportsmail columnist Sutton said Barker’s comments ‘made my blood boil’
  • Stiles revealed he has not been contacted since his father died from dementia
  • Sutton said he would have no part of the dementia taskforce in its current guise 

Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton and John Stiles, son of England World Cup winner Nobby, have slammed the Professional Footballers’ Association, branding comments from the union regarding football’s dementia scandal as ‘just not true’.

Sutton, who the PFA wanted on their dementia taskforce, said he had now decided the planned group was just a ‘time-buying PR exercise’ and insisted that he would have no part of it in its current guise.

The former Celtic, Blackburn and Norwich striker, whose dad Mike, a former player, has dementia, and Stiles, the ex-Leeds United defender whose father died last month after suffering from the disease, were infuriated by comments from PFA assistant chief executive Simon Barker to the BBC on Tuesday. 

Chris Sutton believes that the PFA’s dementia taskforce is just a ‘time-buying, PR exercise’

The former Celtic, Blackburn and Norwich striker’s father Mike (right) is battling dementia

Barker said his colleagues had spoken to Stiles and claimed no family who had approached the PFA for support had been turned down.

That does not tally with testimonies this newspaper has heard from a number of families who have cared for loved ones suffering from neurodegenerative illnesses. And Sutton told Sportsmail: ‘Barker’s comments made my blood boil. They sum up what the PFA is. It’s actually fake news. They can’t substantiate what they are saying.

‘He claimed they had never turned down a request for support from a family. Are they for real? Has he spoken to the people who have been telling their stories to us? Mark Phoenix, son of Peter, who called a 5 Live phone-in in tears of frustration?’

On the taskforce, Sutton added: ‘How on earth can I sit on a taskforce with these people? The families can see through all of this. Sportsmail launched its campaign more than a week ago and it feels like the PFA are just paying lip service.

John Stiles (back) said he has not been contacted by the PFA since his father, Nobby (front), passed away

‘The working group, sadly, will change nothing. The more I have heard about it, the more it appears to be a face-saving, time-buying PR exercise. There should be a fully independent review into the actions of the PFA towards those suffering with dementia and their families going back a long time. This should not be something carried out internally.

‘I have seen some of the names that are on the list. John Bramhall, Simon Barker, Brendon Batson. These are people who have been at the PFA for decades. What has happened has happened on their watch. They are part of the problem. I do want to work with the PFA, but I can’t do that when it is in its current format.

‘There desperately needs to be regime change and I hope it is coming. If the new regime, if it ever arrives, wants to tackle this then I am happy to speak to them.’

Others who have been approached to join the group, including respected campaigners, are now considering their positions, leaving it in danger of collapse.

Stiles, 56, said: ‘I have not been contacted since my father died. This is absolute, utter nonsense — it’s just not true.’

Barker had told the BBC: ‘There has been a lot done in this area. I’ve spoken to Dawn (Astle, daughter of Jeff) and my colleagues have spoken to John (Stiles) and we need to take on board any criticism. We need to adapt and change and improve.

World Cup hero Stiles (right) died last month at the age of 78 after a battle with dementia

‘When I hear that criticism, it hurts me and my colleagues because I know how much we care.

‘We have never turned down any family in terms of support, and definitely not in respect of research, only where it conflicted with other research programmes that were already funded.’

Stiles, who is backing Sportsmail’s campaign for football to tackle its dementia crisis, wants more action.

‘The PFA have tens of millions in the bank and they are just not getting the help to people,’ he said.

‘There is money but it’s not being distributed. This is the scandal and this is the disgrace. Older players need help. There is a cancer in football of denial and defence. It has to be cut out. These players need help and they need it now.’

Stiles wants further research into the link between playing football and dementia.

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