Kerry writes for Bristol Post, June 18th 2021
There were harrowing scenes on Saturday afternoon, as Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch, suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s Euro 2020 game with Finland. It was a timely reminder of the fragility of life and the split-second decisions which preserve it.
There were incredible displays of humanity in the aftermath. Whether that be the Danish players forming a protective ring around their teammate, shielding him from the prying eyes of the press. Or both sets of fans united in singing the player’s name – powerful, emotional support reverberating from one end of the stadium to the other, echoing the thoughts of millions watching at home.
The medical staff who were so quick on the scene will rightly be lauded as heroes for reviving Christian who, it is said, is now doing well in hospital. Yet they didn’t perform miracles, they simply executed their training and followed CPR protocols. It is essential that this first-aid training is widely accessible and taught at a young age because as Saturday proved, it makes the difference between life and death.
I agree with calls for the FA to fund defibrillator use and make its Emergency Aid course compulsory for selected players, referees, and coaches at each grassroots club and County FA up and down the country. The chances of survival without a defibrillator is around 6% – whilst using a defibrillator within 3 minutes increases the victims’ chances of survival to 70%. It is crucial that every sporting venue has this choice.
I’m supporting calls for The FA to fund defibrillators for the lower levels, but financial assistance can come from the top of the game too. I wrote at the time of the now infamous European Super League breakaway attempt that the £350 million vanity project, occurring just months after lower league clubs were filing for bankruptcy and having to furlough players, highlighted the desperate need for reform and regulation of football’s finances.
It’s time for increased fan ownership, greater parity across the footballing pyramid and proper investment in grassroots football. Structural reform is necessary to ensure the excessive wealth of the top clubs reaches the lower leagues and provides life-saving equipment. In Bristol we need it for Sunday league games on the Downs or Eastville Park just as much as at Ashton Gate or the Memorial Stadium.
The coverage of Christian Eriksen’s collapse was extremely distressing, but it will be the empathy and strength in the face of adversity – qualities which have defined this past year and now Euro 2020 – which will be remembered. I hope that the importance of life saving equipment and training is a lasting memory too and the FA ensures anyone at any level has the support that Christian did on Saturday. As the Danish paper Ekstra Bladet put it after Finland went on the win the game: “Denmark has lost – life has won.”
** Details of the British Heart Foundation guidance can be found at- https://www.bhf.org.uk/how-you-can-help/how-to-save-a-life/defibrillators **