Philip Michael Williams was passionate about rugby all his life – both as a player and supporter.  He played for Richmond FC for over 40 years and across 5 decades, continuing to support them long after his playing days were over… some might say he would have bled red, black and old gold!  He was also father to Ian Williams (the Doncaster Knight who sadly passed away in 2018) and as such, of course, a huge supporter of The Ian Williams Foundation established in Ian’s memory and which has been supported by Atlas from the start. 

With his own experiences as a forward in a game as physical as his beloved rugby, Philip had become very interested in the effects of sport on the brain – both in terms of physical damage and mental health.  Indeed his intention was to donate his own brain for medical research, but ironically, though he died from multiple rapid onset dementias, the prevailing coronavirus circumstances prevented autopsy and donation. 

So, while the inner workings of his extraordinary mind are to remain his secret, we have become aware ourselves of research in this area and learned that his medical and mental health history is still of value.  We are therefore fundraising in Philip’s memory to support work and research in this mental health field as it relates to rugby.  It is our hope that this might eventually manifest as a collaboration between the Richmond Heavies Foundation and The Ian Williams Foundation, both charities that were dear to Philip’s heart and who have an interest in the mental health of rugby players.

However, this decision will be based on where we feel the most good can be done to both further the understanding of rugby’s impact on mental health and the brain, as well as to lessen any of the more devastating consequences of the more physical side of the sport.  For example, another of Atlas’ supported funds looks to establish what damage, if any, is done to the vascular structures in rugby players’ brains, the impact this has on cognitive function and dementia outcomes, and the identification and treatment if such damage is done (the Laurence Geller Private Fund for Vascular Repair and Regeneration in Rugby Players) – research we may well wish to contribute to! 

We will of course keep everyone who wishes to know updated as to where the funds are directed – keeping this page up to date in the first instance.  As with Philip’s attitude when he lost Ian, we (his family) wish for some good to come out of his loss and prevent the pain for other families.  If our loss can serve to protect just one player from this situation or just one family from these sorts of consequences, then that is enough.