The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League has called the Football Association's decision to team up with the British Heart Foundation to subsidise the costs of defibrillators for Non-League clubs a massive step forward.
A year on from the collapse and recovery of Fabrice Muamba, the FA and BHA have set up a £1.2m Defibrillator Fund to underwrite two thirds of the cost of the equipment and provide life-saving training to thousands of fans, officials and players.
In a unique partnership, more than 900 defibrillators will be made available to clubs at Steps 1 to 6 of the National League System and teams in the FA Women's Super League to help save the lives of cardiac arrest casualties. Instead of paying around £1000 for a defibrillator, the initiative will see clubs pay just £318, including VAT, knocking two thirds off the cost.
An application pack went out to the Evo-Stik NPL's 66 members clubs this week and officials are urging them to take advantage of a scheme they played a major role in bringing about. Before the start of the current campaign, the Evo-Stik NPL launched its own initiative to encourage clubs to purchase defibrillators and, along with other leagues in the Pyramid and Football Alliance, have been lobbying the FA for action.
The Evo-Stik NPL's Vice President and FA Council Representative Keith Brown said: "I think this is a tremendous step forward for everyone and not just our own league. As a league we started our initiative but the costs, at around a £1000, were still prohibitive for many clubs so this is very welcome news for everybody in football.
"As a league we have kept pushing for this along with others and eventually the National Game Board, Football Alliance and FA agreed to commit £400,00 towards the scheme. Now, with the help of the British Heart Foundation, this is a perfect outcome to a campaign that really started with Fabrice Muamba last year."
Clubs have until April 30 to get their applications in for the initiative which will create thousands of life-savers by giving players, staff and fans access to the equipment and information needed to save a life, including hands-only CPR which was made famous in a BHF advertising campaign by football legend Vinnie Jones.
Awareness around sudden cardiac arrests was heightened when former England Under-21 star Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest in the Tottenham Hotspur versus Bolton Wanderers FA Cup tie on March 17 last year. Muamba’s story is even more remarkable as only around 1 in 10 people normally survive a witnessed, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the UK.
Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "The rules of cardiac arrest are really very simple: there is no chance of survival without prompt CPR and a defibrillator. The importance of these machines in the chain of survival cannot be underestimated and a new partnership between the nation’s heart charity and The FA promises to make a difference between life and death in many of our clubs and their communities."