Alan Shearer’s tribute to experts shining a light on heading risks

Back to news
Alan Shearer, Gerry McCormac and Shelly Kerr holding football shirts

Alan Shearer CBE has paid tribute to the efforts of the research community in tackling the risks around heading in football after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Stirling.

The England and Newcastle United legend was recognised today (November 22) alongside fellow football icon Shelley Kerr MBE – who managed Scotland Women’s National Team to their first ever FIFA World Cup earlier this year.

Speaking on receiving the accolade from University of Stirling Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry McCormac, Mr Shearer said: “I am deeply honoured to receive this prestigious recognition from the University of Stirling – and accept it on behalf of the team I worked with on the recent work exploring the risks posed by heading footballs.

“I am passionate about this vitally important area of research and delighted to see Stirling leading the way in attempting to address the concerns of the football community.”

He added: “I would like to congratulate all of those graduating from the University of Stirling today – it is great to see their hard work and dedication rewarded and I have enjoyed celebrating alongside them. I wish them all the best as they move on to the next chapter of their lives.”

Honorary Graduate Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer CBE said he was "deeply honoured" by his honorary doctorate from the University of Stirling.

Ms Kerr – who graduated with an MSc Sport Management from Stirling in 2016 – said: “It’s a great honour to be the recipient of this award. My time at Stirling was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my personal journey to date.

“The University prides itself in developing people, sporting excellence, equality and diversity and it was a privilege to be offered a unique opportunity to excel in academia and sport. The University’s forward-thinking epitomises its core values – and I’m absolutely thrilled to be an ambassador for the students.

“This is a very special moment and humbling to be honoured at an educational establishment that has played a major role in my career development.”

The recognition comes just weeks after Stirling was crowned UK Sports University of the Year 2020, complementing its existing status as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.

Honorary Graduate Shelley Kerr

Shelley Kerr MBE received an honorary doctorate at Stirling's Winter Graduation ceremonies.

Shelley Kerr MBE

A former Scottish international footballer, Ms Kerr amassed 59 international caps during a trophy-laden career, which spanned more than two decades. She competed as a defender for Kilmarnock, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Hibs and Spartans – and won every domestic honour in Scotland.

Ms Kerr managed Spartans, Scotland under-19s and Arsenal Ladies before taking over the reins at the University of Stirling Men’s First Team in 2014 – becoming the first woman in the UK to manage a senior men’s side. In that role, she enhanced the profile and success of the team and, during her time at Stirling, graduated from the University with an MSc Sport Management.

In 2017, Ms Kerr was appointed manager of Scotland Women’s National Team and, earlier this year, led them to their first ever FIFA World Cup. She also received an MBE in 2019.

She was recognised at today’s ceremony for her outstanding contribution to women’s football.

Alan Shearer CBE

An England and Newcastle United legend, Mr Shearer is renowned as one of the world’s best ever strikers. During his career, he also played for Southampton and Blackburn Rovers – and he continues to hold the record of being the English Premier League’s record goalscorer, with 260 goals.

Mr Shearer has set up the Alan Shearer Foundation to raise funds for people with disabilities in the north-east of England and has also supported the NSPCC, Sport Relief, the Children's Heart Unit Fund and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. He received an OBE in 2001 and a CBE in 2016.

Today, he is best-known for his regular slot on BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’ and, in 2017, he fronted a documentary, ‘Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football and Me’, investigating the risks posed by heading in football. Experts from the University of Stirling were at the centre of the documentary discussing their world-leading research found that heading in football causes instant changes to the brain.

He was recognised at today’s ceremony for his outstanding contribution to football and dementia awareness.

Principal and Vice Chancellor Gerry McCormac
Professor Gerry McCormac
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Both Shelley and Alan embody this University’s ambition to ‘be the difference’ and are excellent role models for our graduands.

Role models

More than 1,400 students received degrees from the University of Stirling today. The first of two ceremonies celebrated students graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport and Stirling Management School; while the second was for those from the Faculties of Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.

Professor Gerry McCormac said: “Both Shelley and Alan embody this University’s ambition to ‘be the difference’ and are excellent role models for our graduands.

“I extend my congratulations to all of our graduands and honorary graduands on their hard-earned accomplishments.”

Stirling has been Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence since 2008 and is The Times / Sunday Times Good University Guide’s UK Sports University of the Year 2020. It offers an unrivalled all-round environment for excellence in sport: education, research, participation, and performance.