Robbie Savage: Gordon Taylor’s gesture is too little, too late

Gordon Taylor has bowed to pressure and agreed to an independent review of the Professional Footballers Association.

But I fear his gesture is too little, too late – and it must be scrutinised externally.

On the same day that Taylor accepted a forensic study of the PFA’s workings was needed, the Charity Commission announced they will be investigating the union and the way it funds his £2.29million salary.

To date, Gordon has not yielded to calls for an open and democratic election – but those voices aren’t going away.

I’m proud to have led public support for PFA chairman Ben Purkiss in his appeal for the union to reform.

It takes some guts to stand up for your beliefs or to speak out against a big and powerful organisation with an estimated £50million in the bank.

Purkiss understood his responsibilities to the 4,000 or so PFA members when he called for an independent review. To my mind, that is exactly what you would expect from a good chairman.

He has done a very brave thing by making a stand for his fellow members.

You might be surprised that I am not celebrating the PFA’s announcement that they are organising an independent review.

Actually, I’m very sceptical and disappointed Gordon Taylor hasn’t called an election in the face of all the recent criticism.

We are not talking about a few disgruntled members with an axe to grind.

There are hundreds of concerned current and ex-players, as well as families of former professionals who were diagnosed with dementia which could have been aggravated by heading a ball thousands of times.

On top of this, a number of influential people such as ex-Sports Minister Richard Caborn and former PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle have joined the calls for Gordon to resign.

Football is a great industry and, at the top level, it is awash with glamour and money.

But scratch beneath the surface and there are some really serious issues for the game to address when we shine a light in dark corners.

Footballers are a magnet for the unscrupulous, and right now there is a crisis for my generation of players, some of whom – it now turns out – have been subjected to appalling sexual abuse and financial exploitation.

A lot of lads I played with or against are in financial ruins.

Some are even suicidal and their mental health is confined to desperate, lonely places. There are huge welfare issues for the game to address.

But what concerns me most is to hear that former players are dying from dementia, and I don’t believe they are getting enough help from one of the richest trade unions in the world.

So what is my motivation for speaking out?

My own father died at 64 from dementia. It’s an awful disease. That’s why I’m an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, a cause very close to my heart.

I regard it as my responsibility, and that of all players past and present, to use our public profiles, make our voices heard and make sure our fellow pros and their families get the support they deserve.

We cannot ignore the cries for help from former England forward Jeff Astle’s daughter, Dawn. Her father died from dementia, yet she has had to beg players (past and present) to back Purkiss’s calls for reform.

The fact she is having to beg us at all for support, and appeal for more research into the links between football and dementia, is frankly a disgrace.

I, for one, will stand up and be counted on her behalf.

I’m also aware of former pros who are facing bankruptcy and homelessness after falling victim to financial scams or exploitation.

They include some former giants of the game – I am not at liberty to reveal who they are – unable to support their families. They are crying out for more help.

How can this be possible? And why are they so unhappy with the support they are receiving?

Let’s get one thing straight: I believe wholeheartedly in the concept of the PFA and a players’ union. It’s never been needed more than now.

Gordon has been a capable administrator and he has held office for 37 years.

There are some really good people at the PFA doing some terrific work in areas like coach education courses.

But I believe it needs to reform and review the scope and concentration of its welfare programme.

It must be fair, democratic, fully accountable and meet the needs of its members. That’s what a trade union is for.

The PFA does not have infinite resources, but the membership needs to have confidence in its governance and to be satisfied its wealth is being distributed fairly to those most in need of support.

I welcome the PFA’s announcement of an independent review, but it must be properly scrutinised and it cannot be a whitewash.

The review needs to dig deep, get to the heart of what’s been going on and outline a path to radical reform.

It should not be limited to one judge. Make it a three-man panel – a QC, a trade unionist and a top-level ex-professional – and their report must be set against a deadline, otherwise this will drag on for months or fizzle out.

For an independent review to have credibility, it must happen quickly and with clear parameters from the outset.

No spin, no timewasting, no fudges – otherwise his critics might argue the process will simply buy Gordon more time at the top of his organisation.

Above all, I feel Gordon should let the full membership decide whether he carries on in charge.

Why hasn’t he called for an election?

As well external scrutiny of the PFA’s independent review, I’m calling for an election. It’s time to let the members decide who runs their union.

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