NZ Football's Smart Start Programme

New Zealand Football has recently launched the Smart Start programme. This initiative is designed to try to get an automated external defibrillator (AED), and an action plan, into all of the 450+ football clubs in New Zealand. The programme features former All White captain Ryan Nelsen (who was on the field when Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack during an English FA cup game), Geoff Brogan (a community football player who was successfully resuscitated by his mates) and NZF Medical Director and Axis Sports Medicine Specialists Partner Dr Mark Fulcher.

NZF research has shown that less than 10% of kiwi football clubs currently have an AED. The timing of the launch unfortunately corresponds with the death of two young football players in Europe. Both of these players collapsed without warning while playing football and are presumed to have sustained a cardiac arrest. This is obviously a tragedy. While the exact cause of these deaths remains uncertain it is likely that it was related to an undiagnosed underlying cardiac condition. These conditions are the leading cause of sudden death in young sportspeople. Cardiac arrests are also relatively common in older players, like Geoff Brogan, who are likely to have underlying coronary heart disease.

The Smart Start programme aims to better prepare and equip clubs to manage a cardiac arrest should one of their club-members suffer a cardiac arrest. Early defibrillation (ideally within 120 minutes) is the single most effective treatment strategy. For this to happen an AED must be on site, club-members must know where to find it and the players teammates must have the skills and confidence to use it.


“Players, coaches and other club people should be encouraged to have a go. CPR is relatively easy to do…just push hard and fast. The AED will actually tell you what to do. You really have nothing to lose.”


Tips for helping to manage a cardiac arrest at your club or organisation:

  • Have an AED on site
  • Prepare an action plan for your club so people know where to find the AED and what to do
  • Allocate someone to be in charge of the AED and plan
  • Practice your emergency plan
  • Encourage your club members to seek further first aid training.

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