The family of West Bromwich Albion and England striker Jeff Astle will launch a charitable foundation in his honour next month, in a bid to raise awareness of the condition that killed the popular player.

Jeff, who is remembered fondly by West Brom fans for his 1968 FA Cup-winning goal, died from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 2002, aged just 59. A progressive, degenerative brain disease, CTE is increasingly recognised in people who have been exposed to brain injury, typically multiple concussions or repeat low level head traumas.

Current awareness of CTE is poor, with patients often diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia instead. At the moment, CTE can only be recognised after careful post-mortem examination, meaning the true extent of the disease is unknown. Last year, Jeff Astle became the first British professional footballer confirmed to have died from CTE, but many more are likely to have been missed or are currently living with this disease.

Jeff’s daughter, Dawn Astle said: “Dad was just 55 when we started to notice small changes in him; he couldn’t remember his grandson’s name or he’d ask whether his mother was still alive, even though she had died some 20 years earlier. Tests and scans followed, and we were told dad had early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Although we never really felt confident in that diagnosis and we believed that, somehow, his years as a footballer might have contributed to his illness.”

Due to be officially launched at the Premier League clash between West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City on 11 April, the Jeff Astle Foundation aims to increase awareness of brain injury in sport, as well as providing support for the families affected and promoting independent research into CTE. Jeff Astle’s family will be attending the match, which will see the West Brom team don a replica of the famous 1968 Wembley strip that Jeff wore when scoring his memorable winning goal.

The foundation has already secured support from a number of high-profile patrons, including Gary Neville, Frank Skinner and Gordon Banks OBE.

Former Manchester United captain and Sky Sports presenter Gary Neville, commented: “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.”

The foundation is keen to promote the ‘if in doubt, sit them out’ message, which was introduced following the death of 14 year old schoolboy and rugby player Ben Robinson, to raise awareness of the dangers of multiple impacts. Jeff’s family hopes that through education and research, the sports we all love can be made safer for players at all levels.