ALBION’S KIT CHANGE TO HONOUR LEGEND AND THE LAUNCH OF THE JEFF ASTLE FOUNDATION
• April 11 clash against Leicester City will see Albion don retro kit from 1968 FA Cup win to honour legend Jeff Astle
• Family to launch PFA-backed Jeff Astle Foundation on same day
• Football’s top bosses Dyke and Taylor backing research into brain trauma injuries
• Research vital on such an important issue says Chairman
• "Celebrate the past, safeguard the future" – Albion skipper Darren Fletcher
West Bromwich Albion will pay a memorable and lasting tribute to legendary striker Jeff Astle with an historic kit change for the Premier League clash against Leicester City on April 11.
The Baggies will don a 2015 replica of the famous white 1968 Wembley strip in which their never-to-be-forgotten centre forward enjoyed his most iconic Albion moment and scored the FA Cup Final winner.
The change of strip will be the high point of “Astle Day” when a Foundation in Jeff’s name is launched by his family which will promote care of other sufferers and research and education into CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
He passed away from the disease at the age of just 59 in 2002.
Albion launched the news in an exclusive video special today featuring chairman Jeremy Peace, skipper Darren Fletcher, Jeff’s daughter Dawn Astle and his close friend and Baggies ‘sidekick’ Tony Brown.
The club have agreed to auction the one-off kit to raise funds for the Foundation as part of its pledge to dedicate a home game to the much loved goal-scorer. And it will be uniquely “retro,” stripped of names and branding, with 2-11 numbering and a blank goalkeeper’s jersey to mirror that worn by Albion keeper John Osborne on that famous day.
It is only the second time the Premier League have granted permission for a kit-change following Manchester United’s switch to a retro design for the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster in 2008.
Given a choice of fixtures, Jeff’s widow Laraine and daughters Dawn and Claire plumped for the visit of Leicester City remembering the Foxes provided the opposition on Jeff’s Albion 50 years ago.
The Baggies hope this fixture turns out better than Jeff’s debut – Leicester won 4-2 that day! – but chairman Jeremy Peace acknowledges that bigger issues than Premier League points provide the backdrop for what he hopes will be a momentous day at The Hawthorns.
He said: “We promised at the start of the season to honour both Jeff and his family’s efforts to raise awareness of an important issue by dedicating a home game to him - and it promises to be a special day.
“We are absolutely delighted the Premier League have granted permission for this kit change as an additional salute to a footballer who remains much loved.
“We are mindful that it is only the second time this has happened which I think says much about Jeff’s standing and the gravity football places on the issues his death raised.
“We must not forget to also thank our sponsors Intuit QuickBooks and kit suppliers Adidas. When we presented them with the idea they immediately grasped the spirit of the project and graciously stepped aside.
“The one minute ovations for Jeff and the ‘if in doubt, sit it out’ campaign this season have been well supported by fans up and down the country and now the launch of the Foundation gives a new impetus to the family’s efforts.
“There is a need to support the research required to understand more about the issues the Astle family have fought so hard to raise.
“I hope that on April 11, Jeff’s old club will be seen to be honouring a promise and helping them. He would have wanted that.”
The Astle family will use the occasion to begin the wind down of their ‘Justice for Jeff’ campaign as they now bid to establish the Foundation as a lasting legacy to the centre-forward.
Speaking on behalf of her family, Jeff’s daughter Claire said: “I would like to take this opportunity to give our heartfelt thanks to the Chairman and everyone associated with West Bromwich Albion Football Club for their support and dedication with regard to ‘Astle Day.’
“‘Astle Day’ will no doubt be an incredible and memorable occasion, made even more special with the launch of The Jeff Astle Foundation - a fitting tribute and lasting legacy in dad's name, to raise awareness of brain injury in sport and to offer the much needed support to those affected.
“We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the FA and PFA for their continued understanding and efforts in addressing this very important issue.
“On a final note, the support we have received from football fans across the country has been phenomenal. None more so than from West Bromwich Albion supporters. Without their love and devotion for dad, none of this would have been possible.
“Dad would be so very proud.”
The PFA have provided logistical and financial support to the Astles in setting up the Foundation as a registered charity and chairman Gordon Taylor said: “We were very pleased to be able to assist the Astle family with the Foundation.
“We note the help and support of West Bromwich Albion in helping to highlight this very important issue.
“Head injuries, and the effect on our members later in life, is a matter very close to us wanting to establish some top class research so the family’s efforts won’t be in vain.”
And FA chairman Greg Dyke, who has met with the family to discuss their campaign, said: “I am delighted to see West Bromwich Albion dedicate this day to their great hero, Jeff Astle. I know a few West Brom fans and I know how much Jeff meant to them and with how much regard they still hold him – you only need to see the reaction to the Justice for Jeff campaign to understand that.
“I think the Astle family’s dedication to their father and husband is inspiring and the idea of an Astle Foundation is important. I know we at The FA are now progressing positively with an expert panel to look at head injuries and we remain committed to ensuring the notion of research in this important area of sports medicine is taken to the highest levels at UEFA and FIFA.”
England coach, former Manchester United international and Sky sports pundit Gary Neville is another to support the Foundation saying: “As a player you are fearless and don’t think of anything other than playing football and getting the right result. However, when you listen to Jeff’s story it stops you in your track and makes you think about your own family and future. It puts football into perspective. Claire and Dawn lost a father, not a footballer and I support them in the setting up of the Jeff Astle Foundation.”