European Healthy Stadia Network: Year in Review 2019

European Healthy Stadia Network: Year in Review 2019

With the festive period fast approaching we thought we’d put together an overview of our work in 2019. This year we’ve supported UEFA with EURO 2020 preparations, raised awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with sports stakeholders and ramped up our advocacy work around sponsorship of sport. 

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.

Our work tackling lifestyle risk factors through policy initiatives and community-level interventions continues to grow but the Healthy Stadia concept continues to change and adapt. In 2019, we’re looked in detail at how sport is funded, how commercial organisations may be exploiting sport to the detriment of fan health and what we can do to reverse these trends.

We’ve also begun to look at the impact of childhood trauma, how adverse experiences in childhood manifest and how participation in sport can help build resilience and provide psycho-social support. And, increasingly, our work is beginning to cross-over with the environmental and sustainability agenda as single-use plastics, usually containing junk food, continue to be used by stadia and private vehicle use looks increasingly unsuitable to travel to sports fixtures from a congestion, air pollution and physical activity perspective.


In January we kicked off with a new campaign to highlight how sponsorship of sport by food and non-alcoholic beverage brands promoting products high in fat, salt and/or sugar is influencing what children consume and is likely having a significant impact on their weight status and oral health. We heard the perspectives of public health experts, academics, oral health specialists and sports medics on the health harms of these products and why sport is a particularly viable platform to promote unhealthy food and drink. You can learn more about this work here.


In February we continued our advocacy efforts on sponsorship with our Director of Research, Robin Ireland, featuring in a segment on unhealthy partnership arrangements on Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast. The episode also looked at how energy drinks are negatively impacting children and young people.

We were also very happy to work alongside Roma Mobilita to promote active travel, including walking and cycling, to Stadio Olimpico. The Italian stadium hosted several match at the Six Nations Rugby tournament later in the year and promoted active travel as a viable, healthy and sustainable form of transport.


As spring drew nearer we headed to Portugal to undertake health impact assessments at Estádio do Dragão in Porto and Estádio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimarães to learn more about health-promoting policies and practices in operation at each stadia ahead of the UEFA Nations League Finals.

We also kept an eye on the Coca-Cola Premier League Trophy to see how football was being used to promote soft drinks. Several ‘zero’ sugar drink were available alongside full-sugar Coca-Cola classic. Coca-Cola’s water brand ‘Smart Water’ was hidden away on the bus itself…


Another stadium inspection sent us to Beşiktaş in Istanbul to assess Vodafone Park ahead of the UEFA Super Cup 2019. We also provided recommendations to UEFA on the serving of alcohol in stadia during UEFA matches. In 2018, UEFA relaxed their regulations to permit the sale of alcohol at sports stadia across Europe in line with national law. Our support will help to ensure responsible drinking by fans on a matchday and that there is access to free drinking water to help rehydrate fans who may over-consume alcohol.


In May the Healthy Stadia team travelled to Madrid ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final. In the run up to the final, UEFA organised the “Champions Festival” a series of cultural and sporting events in Madrid. As part of this, we delivered health education to supporters in English and Spanish language teaching children and young people about the volume of sugar in various soft drink and how alcohol and tobacco can negatively impact on sports performance. Oh and Christian Karembeu also turned up to support!

In May we also began our annual support of the Boundaries for Life programme, conducting health checks at cricket ground up and down the country. The project is now entering its tenth year and has provided advice and support for hundreds of cricket fans in the UK.


We were delighted by the Eredivisie’s announcement that all 34 professional football clubs in the Netherlands in the Eredivise and Keuken Kampioen Divisie would be declared Smoke-free from the start of the 2020/21 season. Healthy Stadia has provided guidance and support to a range of Dutch stakeholders including the Royal Dutch Football Association, the Dutch Alliance for a Smoke-free Society and the Dutch league operators on the introduction of this policy and the creation of a new guidance document based on Healthy Stadia’s own Tobacco-Free Stadia guidance.

We also visited Stadion Energa in Gdańsk, Poland and the Generali Arena in Vienna, Austria in the run-up to their respective hosting of UEFA club competition finals. Both stadia had excellent active travel facilities and we’re working with UEFA to ensure fans wishing to walk and cycle receive adequate support.


July involved more work on the Active Travel agenda as we presented at Velo-City – the world’s largest cycling conference. Our Director Dr Matthew Philpott provided delegates with an overview of walking and cycling to sports stadia and highlighted the work we undertook at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 in the Netherlands, incentivising fan participation in cycling via a mobile app and how UEFA will promote walking and cycling at UEFA EURO 2020 through its tournament app.


Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs consist of a range of often prolonged and extreme stressful experiences that children can be exposed to while growing up. Trauma of any kind can predispose an individual to risky behaviours including smoking, alcohol and substance misuse. In August, Healthy Stadia delivered a training session on ACEs to sports coaches at the Homeless World Cup to provide them with new knowledge and skills to improve their service delivery and tease out why sport can be a life-changing experience for many people.

We also kicked off a new research project coordinated by University of Glasgow on Football Fans and Betting (FFAB). Research suggests more and more fans are experiencing problems with gambling related behaviour and the consortia will be testing a bespoke approach to re-frame gambling for sports fans.


In September, 32 of UEFA’s Member Associations supported World Heart Day, the world’s largest cardiovascular disease prevention campaign. Healthy Stadia gained support from the football family earlier in the year and provided participating organisations with a toolkit of matchday, community and organisational actions they could undertake in support of heart health.

We were disappointed to see eight Premier League clubs sign individual sponsorship deals with Monster Energy – a high-sugar, high-caffeine soft drink. Energy drinks can have a negative impact on physical and mental health and we believe they should not be promoted alongside sport to children and young people.

Healthy Stadia also received a small grant from LCVS to test out the EuroFIT model at grassroots level. The intention is to work in partnership with the Liverpool County FA to recruit and deliver the programme to inactive, overweight male football fans.


Earlier this year Merseyside Police secured £3.37m of government funding to establish a Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) to tackle rising levels of violent crime across the Merseyside region. Healthy Stadia has been supporting the VRU in the roll out of this new ‘upstream’ approach to tackling violent crime, commissioning grassroots physical activity and sports organisations to deliver diversionary activities.

In the summer of 2020, a new 100-ball cricket tournament – The Hundred – will be launched in England and Wales featuring eight entirely new teams. To coincide with the drafting of players, the teams have jointly launched their kits for next year – all featuring a high fat, sugar and/or salt snack brand. In response to the growing number of HFSS brands and products sponsoring sport, Healthy Stadia submitted written evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s Childhood Obesity follow-up inquiry.


We received confirmation in early October that our book chapter detailing the No Tobacco policy that operated at UEFA EURO 2016 would be available from December. The chapter builds upon a growing body of work eradicating smoking from European sports stadia to protect fans from second-hand smoke. The measure in France in 2016 was particularly impressive as the policy had no support from national legislation.

Our Director of Research published a league table in October detailing the number of sponsorship arrangements between Premier League clubs and brands promoting unhealthy products and services, including alcohol, gambling and energy drink companies. You can see the results here.


With an initial submission of 42 applications from across the Merseyside sports sector, Healthy Stadia has commissioned 15 new projects that are engaging young people under the age of 25 years old that are using both targeted (e.g. female only) and universal approaches to help reduce violent crime in the region.

We also met with UEFA in Nyon, Switzerland to receive an update from various UEFA departments toward the delivery of the Respect Your Health programme that will run at UEFA EURO 2020. All host stadia will be tobacco-free with selected stadia with suitable infrastructure operating designated smoking areas. The UEFA tournament app will facilitate walking and cycling to each host stadia on a matchday and we are very pleased to see UEFA committed to providing healthier catering options, including menu items for vegetarian and vegan diets. We are however, disappointed by the announcement of as a sponsor for the tournament. We will be working closely with UEFA to ensure that opportunities to promote healthy food and drink are maximised.

Michael Viggars

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