THE SCOTS woman who successfully campaigned for the provision of free personal care for people suffering from life-limiting degenerative conditions regardless of their age last night called for the Scottish Football Association to act following the deaths of Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers from dementia.

Amanda Kopel, the wife of the late Dundee United, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United footballer Frank, demanded changes to the care system after being forced into financial hardship because her husband, who was suffering from dementia, was not over 65.

Frank’s Law came into force last month after a six year campaign by Mrs Kopel and it is estimated that over 9,000 people across the country will now benefit from the new policy.

The Kirriemuir grandmother, who was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours List, praised the improved guidelines the SFA introduced back in 2015 to protect the health and wellbeing of players who suffer from head injuries.

Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Matthew Lindsay: Football must be proactive in battle with dementia after Billy McNeill's tragic death

However, she is hopeful that the governing body will now help to fund studies into the link between heading footballs and developing dementia in later life and also introduce measures to prevent more players from suffering in future.

“I was so saddened to hear of Billy’s death last week,” she said. “Now Stevie has passed away. The football authorities need to sit up and take notice, they really do. This might spur them into action. It might prick their consciences.

“There has been a lot of publicity about this issue. Billy and Stevie, like Frankie, lost their lives because they did a job that they loved. I have a saying that I use – the dead can’t fight for justice, it is up to the living to do that for them.

“I know there are now a lot of rules and regulations that the SFA have brought in. I certainly appreciate that.

“If, for example, a player gets injured with a concussion they now get taken off. In days gone by the physio would just run on with a sponge. They are protecting the kids of today which I think is wonderful. It is just storing up problems if they aren’t following the rules.

“But the football authorities should be doing something. I think they should certainly be helping with the funding of research into dementia. They have got the money. We are talking about safeguarding future generations here. I have grandchildren. I would hate to think they were in a job that wasn’t looking after them.

Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: A reluctant hero who overcame a brush with death to scale great heights with Celtic and Scotland

Mrs Kopel continued: “Frank’s Law united a lot of the sporting families. It was beautiful to see John Greig go up to Celtic Park and lay the wreath at Billy’s statue. That is what Glasgow needs.

“Liz (McNeill) and I used to say that dementia didn’t care that Billy was the Celtic captain or Frankie was the Dundee United left back when it came calling. It is no respecter or anyone’s age, creed or colour.

“My husband wasn’t as well known as Billy or Stevie. But it doesn’t matter if they’re Joe Bloggs or the Pope. These players who have either passed away or are suffering from dementia all had one thing common - they all headed these hard leather balls. But the damage wasn’t done to players’ brains in matches, the damage was done in training. They were constantly heading balls. There is no such thing as a coincidence.

“I was sobbing last Monday when I heard that Billy had passed away and spoke to Liz. I didn’t know Stevie. But hopefully this should nudge the authorities along. Two of the Lisbon Lions who have passed away from dementia.

“How can they ignore that? I think the SFA should definitely consider monitoring current players. They should be looking after their members. If they aren’t going to do something after Billy McNeill passed away who are they going to do it for?"

Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist and honorary clinical associate professor at Glasgow University who has been examining whether heading a football can lead to brain disease, admits he hopes to be able to publish the findings of a study this summer.

Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Gerry Britton recalls time Pele's jersey graced Bishopbriggs fields, thanks to Celtic legend Stevie Chalmers

He said: “We started the study just over a year ago and our commitment was that within two years we would be reporting back on whether there is any risk of dementia in former footballers.

“We’re slightly ahead of that, some time in the summer we hope to be reporting back on that information.

“We’ve been looking at former footballers and rugby players along with other people over the past few years.”

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Stewart added: "Dementia can affect anybody. But we’re seeing the majority of former football and rugby players with dementia have CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) pathology in the brain."