Sport is not just about participation, either as a spectator or as a player. It is part of the commercial world, managed and marketed to make money.
Sponsorship is financial support for sport, whether it be a tournament or event, organisation or individual athlete, by an outside body for the mutual benefit of both parties.
Sponsorship of sport occurs at all levels from grassroots to elite sport. School teams may have sponsored kit and equipment while athletes and professional clubs may be paid large sums of money to promote particular products and services.
Whilst sport is often considered to be an implicitly ‘healthy’ activity, commercial brands are common in sporting environments. Indeed, both professional and amateur sport has become closely entwined with products and services that can harm our health including alcohol, gambling, junk food and soft drinks.
The Olympic Games has had a relationship with Coca-Cola since 1928. KP Snacks sponsors all eight teams in the new cricket format, The Hundred. Heineken has sponsored the Rugby World Cup for over 20 years. And, since the deregulation of the UK’s gambling laws in 2005, dozens of football clubs now feature betting sponsors on their team shirts.
We believe sports organisations and national governments should bring forward regulatory mechanisms that prohibit further sponsorship partnerships between health-harming products and sports organisations.
Healthy Stadia is working with a variety of partners including academics, NGOs, government departments and supporter groups to further develop the rationale for prohibiting these partnerships and encourage sports stakeholders to consider their role in supporting public health outcomes.
But until we act through regulation, sport will continue to be exploited by alcohol, gambling, junk food and soft drink companies to stimulate demand for their, often harmful, products and services.