On the anniversary of Alan Shearer's groundbreaking BBC 1 documentary exploring the possible links between football and dementia, we look back on the progress made during the year and launch our new fundraising campaign #SupportOurClubs to allow us to help more former players and older fans. 

Sporting Memories worked closely with the former England striker and BBC Sport Documentaries to support the making of the programme, introducing Alan and the team to former Grimsby Town forward Matt Tees & his family, who Alan visited at home and later accompanied to one of the free weekly Sporting Memories clubs we run across the UK. Shearer also interviewed our co-founder, Tony, on the documentary about the guidance booklet on dementia for former players with the PFA.

We caught up with Alan to discuss what has happened in the past 12months. He told us:

"It's remarkable to think a year has already passed since Football, Dementia and Me was screened. I've been encouraged to see the research into the impact of heading and concussion commence under the expertise of Dr Willie Stewart and colleagues at the University of Glasgow and continue to stay in touch to hear of the progress being made. 

In making the documentary, I visited the home of former Grimsby Town frontman Matt Tees, to meet him, his wife May and their family. 

Matt is living with dementia and I accompanied Matt and May to the local Sporting Memories club they attend each week. 

I saw first hand how much they both got out of attending the club and just how much Matt enjoyed it. 

It remains my belief that before we have the findings of the research, football must begin to look after former players living with dementia and put an end to this sense that once you're done with playing, you can be put on the scrapheap. 

The progress made by Sporting Memories Foundation and their partners in supporting former players like Matt each week is encouraging to see.

The clubs rely on volunteers and I'd urge any fans who can devote 90 minutes a week to support their local Sporting Memories session to get involved and to help with fundraising to support the existing sessions and open more of these." Alan Shearer CBE, DL

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So how are we supporting former players?

Steve Elliott celebrated his 60th birthday in September. A former professional footballer, Steve started his career at Nottingham Forest after signing apprentice forms with Brian Clough and later signed professional forms at the age of 18. His career really took off at Preston North End, where Steve scored 70 goals in 208 appearances for the “Lilywhites”. Clubs also included Luton Town, Walsall, Bolton Wanderers, Bury and Rochdale. In all, Steve played 436 games scoring 125 goals.

Steve is now living with a diagnosis of Head Trauma/Alzheimer’s Disease. Mags, Steve’s wife says “Dementia has really affected our lives, instead of enjoying the retirement we both planned; we’ve had to make significant changes to our lives and routines”.

“We were made aware of the Sporting Memories club that meets at Lancashire FA’s base in Leyland and Steve went along to try it out. I’ve seen such a big change in him since, it has given him something to really look forward to and has really transformed our lives”

Steve said “I enjoy meeting up with former colleagues and other club members each week, the volunteers who run the session are fantastic. I’ve made a lot of new friends and I’m supported in playing golf with them during the week. There’s a lot of fun and laughter at the group, it has helped me gain more confidence and it’s safe to say I’ve loved having the chance to kick a ball around again as we don’t just talk about football and sport at the sessions, we get to play them to”.

I would recommend the club to anyone who is thinking about attending, give it a try, you’ll love it.

Steve Elliott (3rd from the right) pictured with former players at a recent Sporting Memories session

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Guide for Former Players launched with the PFA

The guide to dementia has now been published by the PFA. We've further evidence from studies carried out by Leeds Beckett University and Glasgow Caledonian University on the positive impact our groups are having on the quality of life of our members (now over 1,200 attending every week) and since the documentary, Sport England have invested in a 3 year programme to incorporate physical activities into our sessions that take place at sports stadia, but also in libraries, community centres, care homes.

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