World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst has claimed dementia is one of the biggest issues facing football – and urged the Football Association’s new chairman to make it their top priority.

The 78-year-old went on to support calls to introduce concussion replacements, as seen in rugby, as well as bringing in rules to limit headers in training sessions and banning the practice altogether for young children.

He said: “Stopping heading at grassroots level, when kids are nine or 10 years old, would have no impact at all on their enjoyment of football and it will also improve their skills on the ground.

“It would be beneficial both for their long-term health and in terms of making them better players.

“I go back to my time at West Ham, where we had a ball hanging from the ceiling in the gym and we would practice heading it constantly for up to half an hour,” he said.

“Then out on the field, with guys crossing the ball in, you could be heading it 20 or 30 times in a short space of time.

“Those issues – within training rather than the game itself – should be addressed as the amount of times you head the ball in practice has a huge impact.

“We’d have absolutely cut down the number of times we headed the ball had we known then what we know now.

Hurst’s 1966 team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton – from Ashington and widely considered to be England’s greatest player – made his diagnosis with dementia public this month to help others living with the disease.

Fellow World Cup winners Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson were also diagnosed prior to their deaths.

Studies have found those who played the game professionally are three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than the general population.

Hurst wants increased independent funding for further investigation into the link between football and dementia and has called on the game’s governing body to act.

He added: “Sir Bobby is the fifth member of our ’66 team to suffer from dementia. There is a strong, inarguable link.”