European Healthy Stadia Network: 2018

European Healthy Stadia Network: 2018

This year we launched our EuroFIT programme after five painstaking years of research, performed 12 Healthy Stadia Assessments on behalf of UEFA and begun tackling the health halo effect that sport provides products high in fat, salt and sugar. We take a look back at Healthy Stadia in 2018.

Over a decade has passed since the birth of the Healthy Stadia movement, evolving from the EU-funded ‘Sports Stadia and Community Health’ project into a fully-fledged social enterprise. Healthy Stadia now supports national governing bodies of sport, league operators, clubs and their stadia to develop health-promoting practices and policies all over Europe and beyond.


We kicked off 2018 with two Healthy Stadia Assessments in the UK, the first at Hampden Park, Scotland and the second at Wembley Stadium, England ahead of UEFA EURO 2020. The next iteration of the men’s EURO will take place in 12 countries, celebrating 60 years of the prestigious tournament.

As part of the EuroFIT research programme, six pilot clubs from across Europe including former Premier League winners Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City, were recruited to pilot test the 12-week physical activity programme for overweight male football fans. Four coaches from each club were trained to deliver the programme.

We also published in the academic journal soccer and society, discussing the public health and social implications of the relationship between gambling and sport. Healthy Stadia has joined calls for football, to revisit it’s relationship with gambling. There are 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK with research estimating it may cost the government up to £1.2 billion a year.


Our tour of Europe continued as Healthy Stadia joined the UEFA delegation and football and social responsibility (FSR) partners CAFE Football and Colourblind Awareness to assess National Arena, Bucharest and Parken Stadium, Copenhagen ahead of UEFA EURO 2020. We also visited Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon and Lilleküla Stadium, Tallin ahead of the UEFA Europa League Final 2019 and UEFA Super Cup 2019 respectively.


A further three stadium were assessed ahead of UEFA EURO 2020 – Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam; Stadio Olimpico, Rome and Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg. These three stadia scored exceptionally well on Active Travel and we anticipate many thousands of fans choosing to walk or cycle to these stadia during the tournament in 18 months time.


Healthy Stadia also took part in a campaign led by Sugar Smart which called for football to rethink it’s relationship with junk food brands. With childhood overweight and obesity a pressing issue both in the UK and throughout Europe, the advocacy campaign asked whether it is appropriate for products high in fat, salt and sugar to be advertised through sport. At present, the Premier League is sponsored by Cadbury’s and Coca-Cola, the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh FAs grassroots programmes are sponsored by McDonalds and the English Football League signature cup competition is sponsored by Carabao.

We also visited the headquarters of UEFA in Nyon, Switzerland to discuss progress ahead of UEFA EURO 2020 and also our forthcoming collaboration with the World Heart Federation to continue leveraging support from UEFA’s Member Associations ahead of World Heart Day in September. We also discussed a number of objectives for Healthy Stadia in 2018.


In May, Healthy Stadia attended both the UEFA Champions League Final in Kiev, Ukraine and the UEFA Europa League Final in Lyon, France to observe the implementation of the No Tobacco policy that operated during both fixtures.

Alongside the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Women’s Champions League and UEFA Europa League Finals, UEFA also profiled their latest social responsibility campaign #EqualGame and involved several of their social responsibility partners including CAFE football and Colour Blind Awareness.


In June we launched the GULP Lancashire project which was commissioned by Lancashire County Council in response to rising levels of overweight and obesity and poor oral health in children in the region. The GULP KS2 Programme aims to change children’s attitudes towards sugary drinks and ultimately reduce their consumption.

The Boundaries for Life programme also returned in June. Boundaries for Life is a health screening initiative that aims to engage fans in a relaxed environment. The health checks, which take approximately 15 minutes, are designed to access hard-to-reach communities, particularly men from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) – many of whom would not normally access statutory health services. The team covered 11 international matches and domestic cup fixtures during the course of the season.


In July, Healthy Stadia published an official response following UEFA’s decision to relax Article 36 of it’s Safety and Security Regulations. The relaxation now permits the sale of alcohol at UEFA matches in line with national and regional legislation of the host country. Previously sale of alcohol was prohibited at UEFA matches. Healthy Stadia was concerned that as part of the evaluation process, opinion from the field of public had not been considered. To read our position statement, please click here.

Of course, the FIFA World Cup was the event of the summer with thousands of fans travelling to Russia to watch the world’s best play for the most prestigious cup in world football. Off the field though, the tournament organisers implemented a goal-standard Tobacco-Free Stadia policy, protecting home and away fans from the dangers of second-hand smoke.  However, the World Cup somewhat inadvertently became a platform for junk food brands to promote high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) products.

In late July, the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) passed a motion calling for restrictions to be put in place by Government to limit the use of football as a marketing platform for HFSS brands. The FSF has agreed to work alongside Healthy Stadia to ensure that fans voices are heard in protecting children and young people from such marketing tactics.


The principal stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Croke Park, was formally recognised for their work in improving public health outcomes in Dublin and setting the agenda for sport and sports clubs in Ireland. Healthy Stadia has worked closely with Croke Park and the GAA during the last 12 months to assess current policies, initiatives and partnerships promoting health and wellbeing.

One of the standout projects run at Croke Park, and at 150 grassroots clubs clubs in Ireland, is the GAA Healthy Clubs programme. The project aims to help GAA clubs identify what they are already doing well to develop the physical, social, emotional, psychological health of their members and communities, and empower them to ensure that everyone who engages with their club benefits from the experience in a health-enhancing way.


In September, we had the pleasure of visiting the Baku Olympic Stadium, Azerbaijan which will host the UEFA Europa League Final in 2019 and matches at UEFA EURO 2020 the following year. Baku Olympic Stadium has recently introduced new No Smoking measures demonstrating their commitment to protecting fans and staff from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Use of tobacco and e-cigarette products will not be permitted at either the UEFA Europa League Final 2019 or during UEFA EURO 2020.

With the help of UEFA FSR and World Heart Federation, Healthy Stadia leveraged support from over half (30) of UEFA’s Member Associations, including World Cup winner France and runners up Croatia for World Heart Day 2018. Several league operators and dozens of clubs also participated in the campaign disseminating heart healthy messages to supporters across Europe. Learn more about WHD2018 here.


Healthy Stadia hosted two international events during October. The first was hosted at Windsor Park, home of the Irish FA, for the World Health Organisation’s International Healthy Cities Conference, Belfast. The conference explored the role that sport and sports stadia can play in improving public health outcomes and how our network can link in with the wider Healthy Cities movement.

The second was held at Scotland House, Brussels and formally launched the European Fans in Training or EuroFIT programme to the football family. To date, 21 clubs across Europe have delivered the gold-standard physical activity programme to overweight male football fans and the Portuguese Football Federation became the first UEFA Member Association to formally adopt the programme. You can download presentations from the conference here.

We were extremely pleased to see that both applicants for UEFA EURO 2024 demonstrated a strong commitment to health in their tournament bid. We congratulate DFB for being awarded the tournament and we look forward to working with them in the coming years.


In November we spoke at the 11th European Football Development Network (EFDN) conference in Ghent, Belgium on how the football family can promote active travel to stadia. By encouraging walking and cycling to stadia, sports organisations can increase the physical activity levels of their fan base and their staff whilst reducing congestion and emissions on a matchday. We detailed a number of best-practice examples of stadia across Europe and also our work supporting UEFA to encourage fans to travel on foot or by bike to UEFA Women’s EURO matches in 2017 and also for UEFA EURO 2020.

Following the successful development of a health and wellbeing programme for European football fans, Robin Ireland, Director of Research, Healthy Stadia and PhD Candidate at the University of Glasgow travelled to Blantyre, Malawi to help facilitate a workshop to inform the development of a health and wellbeing programme for Malawian football fans.

Healthy Stadia also attended a number of events in November around developing our urban spaces as ‘active’ environments. Both the PACTE Workshop in Liverpool and the Moving People Seminar in Paris provided pause for reflection on how we can use our existing infrastructure and advocate for change to encourage individuals and communities to be more active.


In collaboration with researchers from Liverpool John Moores University we published an evaluation report of the GULP Lancashire Project. Community coaches from Accrington Stanley, Fleetwood Town and Preston North End delivered a four-part sugary drink education programme to over 900 primary school children during the summer term. Children averaged 16.1 days out of 21 free of sugary drinks with 95% of participants achieving a minimum of 10 days free of sugary drinks.

In December we also published our review of the football family’s activity around World Heart Day 2018. UEFA Member Associations, League Operators and Clubs used their websites and social media channels to promote heart healthy messages and many undertook matchday, community and organisational actions in support of heart health. Several UEFA Member Associations used World Heart Day as a platform to promote their work around cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques (CPR) including England and Germany. Learn more about WHD2018 here.

Finally, following the official launch of EuroFIT in October, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes with several academic institutions to ensure the programme is widely available to all members of the football family.

Michael Viggars

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