Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has joined forces with Australian charity Heartbeat of Football (HOF) to improve the health and wellbeing of footballers across the country.

  • New partnership centred on raising awareness of heart health in all footballers
  • Health screenings will be delivered to former footballers via the PFA’s Past Players Program
  • Former A-Leagues and Olyroos midfielder Chris Naumoff to join as ambassador

The partnership will help HOF’s mission to reduce the number of sudden cardiac arrests in professional, grassroots and community football via increased awareness, education, screenings, and the placement of live-saving defibrillators in sporting clubs.

Central to the partnership will be heart health assessments and CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training for former players through the PFA’s Past Players Program, as well as awareness campaigns involving A-Leagues players.

Heartbeat of Football CEO and Founder Andy Paschalidis said amplifying their work through the PFA would help the organisation reach its goal of zero heart-related deaths on sporting grounds.

“Heart health and specifically sudden cardiac arrest is a critical national health issue. Our game, due its its large participation rate and the greatest diversity and inclusion mix of any code in Australia, has registered the highest number incidents and deaths,” Paschalidis said.

“This fact is also true for the “world game” across the globe as highlighted in FIFA Sudden Death Registry Report covering 2014-2018 reporting 617 deaths across 67 countries, which HOF contributes data to.

“The PFA’s support in growing the awareness and importantly the need for more preventative screening tests across all levels of football is truly appreciated and will make a meaningful difference. The whole football family needs to work together to tackle this issue and show leadership as the PFA has. Thank you PFA and we welcome Kiki into the fold formally following his earlier support in 2017.”

The PFA’s collective bargaining agreements with the A-Leagues and Football Australia guarantee all professional players undertake mandatory electrocardiogram (ECG) testing – which records the electrical signal from the heart to check for different heart conditions – prior to commencing professional football in Australia.

However, professional footballers are not immune to the devastating impact of unanticipated cardiac arrest, perhaps best illustrated by Christian Erikson’s collapse during last year’s Euro 2020 tournament.

PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch believes the PFA has the responsibility to ensure all footballers, and especially community participants and former players, are adequately protected.

“The impact of cardiac arrest on footballers is devastating and it remains a real and unpredictable risk for many people who love to play the sport, including many of our former professionals, and hundreds of thousands of participants across Australia,” Busch said.

“Our ambition has always been to make football the most accessible and safe sport to play, so to be able to amplify and support Heartbeat of Football’s work in the community, we can continue our mission to make football safer for all participants.”

To help power the partnership, former Olyroo Christopher ‘Kiki’ Naumoff has joined as an ambassador for HOF. 

Kiki was forced into early retirement in 2016 due to a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM); a genetic condition which involves thickening of the interior heart wall and introduces a risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

“If my experience has taught me anything, it’s that there can never be enough testing or awareness of heart health at every level of the game, and that we can always do more to make sure we have the skills, knowledge, and tools to prevent the next devastating event, whether that’s in professional or community football.  

“This is a great platform for me to be able to use my experience to educate others on the importance of good heart health, regular health checks and also the importance of clubs having access to life-saving equipment, such as a defibrillator.”

About Heartbeat of Football

Heartbeat of Football (HOF), a not-for-profit organisation, was established in early 2016 by media personality and football enthusiast Andy Paschalidis as a direct result of cardiac arrest events on the football field.

Heartbeat of Football promotes healthy hearts in sport via:

  • Awareness & Education: player, participant, and community programs.
  • Prevention: minimisation of health risks through simple screening checks.
  • Action: “rescue-ready” defibrillators at all sporting fields around the country