It is fair to say that due to the skills and resources of the medical teams at White Hart Lane on Saturday 17th March 2012, one man is alive today that may not have survived his cardiac situation if it would have occurred many places outside of the stadium. Fabrice Muamba collapsed during the FA Cup 6th round tie and it appears that his heart stopped. Within seconds he was being treated by experienced medical staff and thanks to their continued work, both at the ground but also enroute to hospital, Muamba is alive today.
Questions were immediately asked about what could be done to stop such incidents ever re-occurring. A screening programme for professional players was suggested to detect such issues, which can only be a good thing. But there is a deeper issue here. Football is played in this country by tens of thousands of people every week. However, it is only the clubs at the top of the pyramid who can afford such screening as well as other suggested measures that should be introduced.
An email sent to Non League clubs earlier this week encouraged them to purchase a defibrillator which could be used should an incident similar to Muamba’s occur during a game. Whilst it is hard to put a price on anyone’s life, a cost of over £1,000 for just the equipment (add in the necessary training) is simply too much for most clubs who sit below the Football League structure.
At the Ryman Premier League level a £1,000 cost is the same that is paid to an average player IN A MONTH. Compare that to an average Premier League player – that same £1,000 is around 40 minutes work. £1,000 is the revenue a club gets from around 100 people coming through the gate. In the Premier League that number can be as low as 10 people depending on the ground. I have long advocated the need for professional clubs to play more of a role in their local areas in terms of ensuring that their local non league teams can survive in their shadows. I am not for one minute suggesting that professional clubs should be handing over wads of cash but there are certain things they could do to help.
As many of you know I spend a lot of time travelling around Scandinavia. The sight of defibrilators in public buildings, sports clubs and essentially any public place has been common for many years now. As part of the First Aid training in these organisations the use of the equipment is included. For the most part this equipment is provided to the organisations free of charge by the local authorities.
Our Football Association, like most people within the game, came out and expressed concern and then offered best wishes for Muamba and his recovery. But perhaps they could help prevent incidents where unfortunately there isn’t the skills or equipment at hand. With thousands of organisations right the way from Fleetwood Town at the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier to your local Sunday League side, surely there is the opportunity for some negotiation on a much cheaper deal based on economies of scale or even a funding exercise to provide this equipment for the clubs.
99% of football clubs in the United Kingdom live hand to mouth, from one day to the next. Any spare cash will go to playing players, fixing facilities or trying to arrange travel. The opportunity cost of spending £1,000 on medical equipment can mean the difference between promotion or relegation, and that unfortunately means that football is a matter of life and death to these clubs.