On Monday evening, General Manager Edwin van der Sar made a statement to the press concerning the treatment of Abdelhak Nouri in July 2017. The complete statement is below.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for coming on such short notice. We have important news about the terrible incident concerning Abdelhak Nouri last year. Based on new insights, which we, unfortunately, did not discover until very recently, we have reached new conclusions. These are that the treatment received by Abdelhak Nouri on the field in Austria in July 2017 was inadequate. We recognize our responsibility and liability for the consequences of this. First of all, I would like to offer the Nouri family our apologies for the fact that it took us so long to change our point of view on this matter.
I will read this declaration in its entirety. This is a very difficult situation and I would like to make sure I use the right words.
We have given much attention to the medical attention Abdelhak received on the field in Austria at the time of the incident. Much has been said and written about this. Unfortunately, we ended up in a situation – until very recently – in which our own conclusions and those of the family and their advisors were different. I would like to emphasize that we deeply regret this.
When analyzing the treatment on the field, as a club, we first based ourselves on the information that we received from our own people, as well as on television footage and other medical information. An external medical advisor, supported by an intensive care physician, evaluated all of the information that was available to us at that point, and provided us with a professional second opinion.
At a certain point in time, the situation was as follows: after all of the available information had been presented by Ajax to its medical and legal advisors, they came to the conclusion that the treatment given on the field had been adequate and, based on these conclusions, there was no reason for the club to claim any responsibility. This assessment was also based on television footage and the readings from the heart rate monitor that Abdelhak had been wearing. The practitioners on the field noted that there was a heart beat, which was later confirmed by the results on the heart rate monitor. Based on this information as well as an external opinion, we, as a club, adopted the point of view that there was no reason to believe that the treatment given on the field was not good.
The Nouri family’s petition to the KNVB contained new information for us, and this was an important reason to consult more experts and to seek a third opinion. We began to doubt the conclusions of our advisors. And, of course, we wished to be 100% certain that our stand was the correct one. Questions arose concerning the underlying information and the prior medical advice, and the point of view that was taken as a result of that. This needed to be investigated, for the sake of Abdelhak and his family, as well as the other players, employees and supporters of Ajax.
We decided to have the newly available information assessed by heart specialists, cardiologists, together with the information which had been previously available. Two weeks ago, Professor Douwe Atsma and Professor Martin Schalij, two cardiology professors at the LUMC, agreed to look at the already-known information and the television footage once again. We simply wished to get clarity where doubts had arisen.
The cardiologists’ findings concerning the treatment on field are clear:
1. The attendants were insufficiently focused on measuring the heartbeat, circulation, and a potential reanimation, and were focused for too long on ensuring that Abdelhak’s air passages were clear.
2. The available defibrillator should have been used sooner in order to get a clearer picture of what was going on.
3. After clearing the air passages, the attendants should have taken a moment to reflect, as the situation was not improving.
Allow me to say this: if there is anyone who, at that moment, wanted to give Appie adequate help, it was the two attendants who were taking care of him.
The cardiologists also found it unlikely that, after Abdelhak had collapsed, an effective blood circulation was taking place. Had the defibrillator been used, this would have become apparent, and then reanimation could have begun at that point. Had this happened, it’s possible that Abdelhak would have come out in a better condition. This isn’t certain, but it’s a possibility.
You can imagine what effect these findings had on me and my colleagues. At the end of last week, Rutger was informed by the cardiologist about their conclusions, which indicated that the situation was different than we had previously assumed. He called me directly from abroad. The news hit us hard and it still feels like an enormous shock. First and foremost for the family, to whom I spoke this afternoon to inform them. We also sincerely apologized to them that it took so long before we were able to get this clarity.
The selection has been informed of this new situation. Of course, many other concerned people, such as those playing in the World Cup, have been informed as well.
For a long time we, the management, as well as the medical staff, were convinced that Abdelhak had received the best possible care on the field. When leading cardiologists, after thorough examination of the facts, arrive at a different conclusion, it’s a blow, although we are the ones who sought a third opinion.
The first thing that we will be doing is entering discussions again with the Nouri family. We now need to do what’s necessary in order to fulfil the responsibility we have as a club, but also as human beings, colleagues and friends of Appie. We wish to resolve this in a good way and this is what we are focused on. The mandate of the arbitration was to determine whether or not we had provided adequate treatment on the field. We did not, and we therefore assume responsibility for this. We have also committed to the family, previously, that if it turned out that we were in the wrong, we would take responsibility for it. We first need to discuss with the family what arrangement this will lead to. I would like once again, in front of you all, and on behalf of Ajax, to offer our deep apologies to Abdelhak, his family and loved ones. It must have been very frustrating that for a long time our conclusions were different, on top of the sorrow of what had happened to Abdelhak.
I would like to touch on one more topic. As a result of this situation, we feel a bigger responsibility. What happened in Austria with Abdelhak could happen to other players. Not just professionals, but amateurs too. It’s happened before. We feel the responsibility, as the biggest club in the Netherlands, to learn from our experiences and to turn them into education for everyone in the Netherlands who takes care of the health of football players. Club physicians, physiotherapists, attendants in amateur football – it’s important for everyone to know what to do when a player collapses on the field. So, on the short term, we will start up an initiative to educate people better in this area, up to the amateur level. We feel a responsibility on behalf of Abdelhak, his family, our selection, and, finally, every football player in the Netherlands.
But for now, our focus is on the care and attention that we need to give to Abdelhak and his family – now that this has been established. This is our priority.
And finally: at the family’s request, we ask that you leave them in peace, and not approach them with questions.