Alzheimer’s Society announces roster of Sport United Against Dementia Champions on World Alzheimer’s Day

Sport and TV stars including Denis Law, Harry Redknapp, Shane Warne and Freddie Flintoff, back pioneering campaign to change landscape of dementia across the industry.

An impressive line-up of famous sporting faces have joined forces on World Alzheimer’s Day (21 September) to support a major new campaign tackling dementia. 

The elite group of stars are throwing their weight behind Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia (SUAD) campaign by becoming Champions. By giving their time and backing to the UK’s leading dementia charity, they will help transform the way sport supports people affected by dementia. 

SUAD will help people remain connected to their local communities through the clubs they know and love, break down stigma and raise funds and awareness of Alzheimer’s Society’s vital support services to ensure the sporting community can get the dementia support they deserve. The campaign will also support and fund research to further our understanding of dementia, including the causes and risk factors, particularly as it relates to sport.

Denis Law CBE, who sadly announced his dementia diagnosis last month and has been offered support from Alzheimer’s Society, has become an SUAD Champion - Denis and his family have already raised over £40,000 for the charity.

He will be joined by fellow former striker Sir Geoff Hurst, who has backed SUAD after several members of the historic 1966 England team have been impacted by dementia.

Sky Sports News anchor Hayley McQueen, the daughter of former Manchester United player Gordon McQueen, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia in January of this year, has also announced her support as a Champion.

Hayley McQueen said:

'Sport and dementia are both very close to my heart, and I never expected them to be connected until my dad’s heart-breaking diagnosis back in January. By being a Champion for Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia campaign, I’m able to use my voice for those who can’t, helping to make sure people affected by dementia aren’t forgotten.

We know more research is needed, but this takes time and for families like mine, time is not on our side.

'That’s why support services are so crucial - Alzheimer’s Society’s services have been used over six million times since March 2020 but there are still thousands more who don’t know where to turn.

'Alzheimer’s Society’s Sport United Against Dementia campaign will do so much to change how people access support and remain connected to their communities, through the nation’s love of sport and both me and my beloved dad are fully behind the campaign.'

Also from the world of football, Harry and Jamie Redknapp will be part of the ground-breaking campaign, and fellow former Tottenham Hotspur player Jermaine Jenas.

Harry Redknapp, added:

'Having been involved in football all my life, I’ve seen the joy and passion it can give people. From when I was playing as a youngster and then starting professionally at West Ham, to my days as a manager, you meet people from all walks of life coming together for this shared love of sport.

'I can still remember the moment that my Portsmouth players held up the FA Cup, the look on their faces and the cheers and emotion in the crowd, it’s a memory that I’ll never forget, and yet it’s heart-breaking to think that for thousands of players and fans, that memory is starting to fade. That’s why I’m so proud to be supporting Alzheimer’s Society.

'2021 has already been a huge year for UK sport – there is no better time to unite against dementia, so we can provide hope to future generations and transform the way our much-loved sports support players and fans alike.'

SUAD Champions from cricket include former England Captain Alec Stewart OBE, Shane Warne and Freddie Flintoff MBE

Alec Stewart OBE said:

'I was shocked to hear that there are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK right now. And as we gradually see sports fixtures returning to normality, it’s not so easy for life to get back to normal for people affected by dementia, who have been worst hit by the pandemic. 

'I’m honoured to support the brilliant work at Alzheimer’s Society - I fully back the charity’s efforts to work across multiple sports, including cricket, to raise vital funds and awareness to make the biggest difference to people affected by dementia.'

Rugby will be represented by former rugby union player Martin Bayfield and English rugby World Cup winner Ben Kay MBE, who is one of a number of former elite rugby players who has enrolled in a new phase of the PREVENT* study with Professor Willie Stewart and Professor Craig Ritchie, called PREVENT:RFC, which SUAD will fund.

The research will look at whether elite rugby players show more early warning signs of dementia than the general population, and if so, why. SUAD will also help fund an informal pilot study with elite football players, which will help lay the groundwork for future research looking at football and dementia.

The backing of these Champions will help raise vital funds to increase capacity of Alzheimer’s Society’s urgently needed support services so the charity can reach even more people. The campaign will also increase awareness of what support is available, enabling local clubs and governing bodies to inform and refer their employees, players, former players and fans to support so they can get the help that they need.  There has been a huge demand for Alzheimer’s Society’s services, after people with dementia have been worst hit by the pandemic.

The campaign will also help bring dementia out of the shadows and tackle the stigma surrounding the condition by creating a network of dementia friendly facilities, so people living with dementia and their families can enjoy watching sport for longer. SUAD will fund a dedicated role and work in partnership with governing bodies and clubs to ensure that fans with dementia can access venues an remain connected to their clubs.

Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the largest social movement around dementia, changing the way society thinks, acts, and talks about dementia, garnering over 3.4 million Dementia Friends in the UK.

The Champions join a board of industry figureheads, including representatives from – Football’s League Managers Association and Premier League, England and Wales Cricket Board and Premiership Rugby. The announcement also follows the launch of an official charity partnership between Alzheimer’s Society and The FA for the next two years.

Kate Lee, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society added:

'UK sport is having such an exciting year and we are incredibly grateful for the support of our amazing Sport United Against Dementia Champions. Together, we hope to make a significant difference to everyone affected by dementia. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or former sporting great, we will use the power of research to get the answers we urgently need and help ensure everyone is aware of the symptoms, advice available, and can get support when they need it.'

Richard Thompson, Chair of SUAD and Chairman of Surrey County Cricket Club said:

'Sport is able to draw attention to an issue or cause like nothing else can. Sport United Against Dementia is fortunate to have household name talent getting behind our work for this crucial campaign.'

Sport United Against Dementia

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