World Obesity Day: How the sport sector can tackle obesity

Children playing football

World Obesity Day: How the sport sector can tackle obesity

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a societal, worldwide response to a disease is possible. COVID-19 has also exposed the imperative to address other global health challenges such as obesity, not least because evidence suggests obesity makes treating COVID-19 more difficult. This World Obesity Day, Healthy Stadia is calling on the sports sector to assess how we can take collective action to respond to the root causes of obesity.

Obesity is a disease that has quickly become normalised. And yet, given its prevalence and impact, it is has not been given the attention needed. Obesity can be a gateway to many other non-communicable diseases and poor mental health and is now a major factor in COVID-19 complications and mortality.

Whilst obesity is a complex disease that is impacted by the food we eat, our genetics, but also our environment, the sports sector has a key role to play in tackling obesity. Professional and amateur sport should consider their role in marketing food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar. Research suggests children, young people and vulnerable adults, are most susceptible to this type of marketing through sponsorship deals.

The changing demographics of sports fans means that sports stadia should review their matchday catering offers. By reformulating traditional food offers to reduce fat and salt, stadia can help to provide better quality food. Whilst updating and modernising menus to provide tasty food options, at a lower price point, such as wraps, rice and noodle boxes can also increase revenue.

Sports stadia can also help to create an active fan culture by working with local authorities and municipalities to encourage fans to walk and cycle to sports fixtures. Increasing provision for active travel not only gets fans active, but it helps to reduce the use of private vehicles, easing congestion and reducing emissions.

We now have a a window of opportunity this World Obesity Day to advocate for, fund and implement actions in countries across Europe to ensure better, more resilient and sustainable health for all, now and in our post-COVID-19 future. We list a series of projects below that we have developed that can help sports organisations tackle obesity.

European Fans in Training – EuroFIT:

EuroFIT is a ground-breaking health and wellbeing programme for overweight football fans aged between 30-65. Delivered by sports coaches in sports facilities, the programme harnesses the intense loyalty fans have for their football club, helping to motivate them and give them the knowledge and skills to lose weight, get active and improve their mental health – and maintain it.

EuroFIT uses cutting-edge behavioural science and technology in a bid to prevent, rather than treat, chronic illnesses associated with obesity and inactivity. The programme is the only one of its type to be based-upon a gold standard scientific evidence base and has been delivered in over 20 football clubs in England, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.

Give Up Loving Pop with your club:

GULP is a school-based PSHE programme delivered by sports coaches that aims to raise awareness of some of the acute and long-term health harms associated with regular consumption of highs-sugar drinks including poor oral health and weight gain.

The programme has both classroom and playground components and challenges children to calculate the sugar content of drinks, understand how high sugar and the acidity of drinks can erode tooth enamel whilst also looking at the benefits of drinking water for education and exercise.

If you would like to learn more about Healthy Stadia’s work and how we can contribute to tackling obesity in your area, please contact: 

Michael Viggars

Read more news

About Us

Find out more about Healthy Stadia and the Healthy Stadia concept

Stadia Guidance

Support for stadia to introduce health-promoting policies


Find out more about our range of community health programmes


Learn more about how we advocate for change through sport

Research Projects

Discover how we support researchers and deliver projects


Find out how we support Europe’s governing body of football