Brentford has been at the heart of the inspiring community partnership – HoWL – since October ’22 which CRY is so proud to be involved with, too.
Almost 18 months ago, Brentford Football Club launched a pioneering new partnership, the Heart of West London [HoWL] with several leading charities all sharing the aim of improving heart health in the local community. Together, this inspiring project is already witnessing the power of sport and a collective voice being used positively to change the game for cardiac health in west London.
And, today [Monday 5th February] sees a particularly poignant match in the Premier League calendar at the start of Heart Month 2024, as the Brentford takes on rivals, Manchester City – the club that Cameroonian player, Marc Vivien-Foe was signed to at the time of his tragic death on the pitch just over 20 years ago from a previously undiagnosed heart condition.
The CEO of Cardiac Risk in the Young, Dr Steven Cox, goes on to explain;
“The sudden and devastating collapse of international football star, Marc Vivien-Foe in June 2003 shocked the entire football world – and beyond. It was so public, horrifying and frankly, unbelievable – elite athletes at the top of their game, couldn’t possibly just collapse and die; their hearts literally just stopping, mid-game?
“But, the experts behind our fledging charity, CRY, were at the time already campaigning hard to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death in young people, funding the screenings of just a few hundred young people every year, whether in the community or in professional sport. Marc’s tragic death underlined just how vital proactive cardiac screening is. From then on awareness and the scale of our screening programme really started to grow.
“Almost a decade later, the sudden collapse of Bolton mid-fielder Fabrice Muamba in March 2012 once again sent shockwaves across the world of sport. Thankfully, due to the swift action of emergency responders on the day, Fabrice survived the cardiac arrest. But this incident shone further light on the importance of cardiac screening with CRY’s ‘testmyheart’ programme seeing almost a year’s worth of registrations and bookings compressed into the 3 weeks that followed, a trend that has never trailed off…
“Now, as we welcome Heart Month 2024, CRY is proud to announce that we’ve screened over 285,000 young people to date, with our research continuing to show that one in 300 of the young people screened by CRY’s team of experts, will be identified with a potentially fatal heart anomaly, requiring urgent, further attention.
“We know that through our UK-wide screening programme, more than 950 young people have been diagnosed and lives have been saved through the early identification of their condition and subsequent intervention. And more than 2,850 young people have been ‘picked up’ with non-life-threatening conditions which can cause problems in later life, if not monitored or treated.”
CRY has had a long relationship with Brentford FC. This goes back to when CRY Patron Andy Scott was at the club and they hosted a screening at their ground in 2010 in memory of Tom Clabburn. The ongoing partnership took a new level of momentum in 2018, following the sudden death of Robert Rowan, the club’s technical director who tragically died in his sleep aged just 28, after suffering a fatal episode caused by the condition, cardiomyopathy.
Robert’s wife, Suzanne, has since become a loyal and proactive supporter of CRY – and more recently, the HoWL initiative via the Brentford FC community – raising thousands of pounds to provide cardiac screening sessions for young people aged 14-35 living in and around West London, as well as funding screenings in Scotland, where both she and Rob grew up.
Suzanne, who is now an official Representative for CRY, raises funds and awareness via initiative she set up,
The Heart of West London group is made up of Brentford FC, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young, Resuscitation Council UK and A-K-A Day. The shared ambition is to ensure that everyone has the skills to save a life and to raise awareness of heart disease and the lifestyle changes necessary to live healthier lives, as well as delivering education within the local community about screenings for under-35s.
Speaking at the time of the launch of HoWL, Nity Raj, General Counsel at Brentford FC and Trustee of Brentford FC Community Sports Trust said:
“At Brentford, to achieve success we have always tried to focus on the things that make the most difference; following the science and striving to make a positive impact in our community.
“We believe we will be successful in bringing about better research, more cardiac screenings, encouraging more people to make positive changes in their lives and providing more CPR training. This alliance and future initiatives will serve as a lasting legacy to our friend, Robert Rowan.”
Dr Steven Cox, concludes; “We wish Brentford success in their match against Man City this evening – a huge game for the club – with members from our HoWL community watching and cheering on ‘The Bees’ from the stands!
“But moreover, we’re so pleased and touched that Suzanne Rowan will have the opportunity to take part in a pre-match interview with Nity Raj and former player, Fraser Franks who retired from the game in 2019 following surgery for an underlying heart condition. Their collective voice will be so powerful in reiterating the need for early diagnosis and intervention to help stop the heartbreak caused by hidden heart conditions which continue to claim the lives of 12 young people every week in the UK.
“When Marc Vivien died more than 20 years ago it was because there was very little awareness of cardiac conditions in young people. CRY has continued to be at the forefront of raising awareness and we know many lives have been saved because of this. The way people responded to the collapses of Fabrice Muamba and Christian Eriksen was because of increased awareness. Awareness saves lives and whilst it is fantastic what has been achieved in the last 20 years, there is still much to do.
“Huge thanks to everyone at Brentford FC and the Heart of West London initiative who are playing such an important part in helping to raise awareness and save young lives.”