The pursuit of justice: Nobby Stiles’ son speaks out about football’s failure to address devastating brain injuries

How the legacy of a World Cup hero highlights the urgent need for change in football safety

Football captivates millions in the UK, not only as a sport but also as a cultural mainstay in communities across the country. Yet, behind the multi-billion-pound, star-studded industry, a less visible struggle persists — one that threatens high-profile and lesser-known players alike.

This hidden crisis centres around brain injuries sustained as a result of playing the sport, an issue starkly highlighted by the plight of Nobby Stiles, a much-cherished World Cup winner. Stiles, known for his tenacity on the pitch and his iconic victory dance with the World Cup trophy in 1966, was more than a footballer; he was a national hero.

John Stiles holding a photo of his son, Nobby Stiles.

Unfortunately, after years of playing at the highest level, including for England and Manchester United, Stiles' later years were marred by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of dementia associated with repeated head impacts, which was only confirmed after his death in October 2020.

Rylands Garth is representing the Stiles family, and over 600 others, who have experienced the trauma of seeing loved ones suffer from brain injuries as a result of playing football, rugby union and rugby league. We continue to lobby the sport’s governing bodies to take responsibility and to acknowledge and address the risks associated with head injuries.

We are actively involved in raising awareness and pushing for better medical scrutiny and financial support for affected players and their families. Our commitment is to ensure that these athletes are not only remembered for their contributions to the sport, but also receive the care they deserve.

The urgency of our work is echoed in the voices of those most affected, like John Stiles, Nobby's son, who has spoken about his father's degenerative condition, the broader impact on families across the sport, and the need for systemic change.

Mr Stiles said: "It was a long gradual progression of the disease. It was very difficult to watch that happening to somebody you love. When you know something's killed your dad and you did the same job your dad did, you've got no choice but to try and publicise this. Families are having to sell their homes to pay for their loved ones' care and that's just not right.

“Everybody needs to be educated about the dangers of heading the ball. Football is the only sport where your head hits a projectile that's coming towards you. The risk of CTE is in any sport where there are head impacts.

“I honestly think that the only way we can shake this up and get the authorities to play ball is by legal action. I'm exasperated by the lack of information on CTE — what it does, how it happens, and its prevalence. It's so obvious, it's almost in plain sight.

“There's no reason why football can't address this issue in the same way the NFL did in the USA by establishing a fund. I believe the NFL has allocated over $1.25 billion to care for players there, and there's no reason why a similar initiative can't be implemented here. This needs to be done immediately.”

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of brain damage such as memory loss, headaches, confusion, or mood changes, it's crucial to take action. You may be eligible to make a claim and secure the support you deserve.

Contact Rylands Garth today via email or our online claim form to discuss your case.

Contact Us