Young people, sports & alcohol: Recommendations from the FYFA Project

Young people, sports & alcohol: Recommendations from the FYFA Project

The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) hosted a webinar attended by over 150 participants from over 30 countries to highlight key findings from the FYFA project – Focus on Youth, Football and Alcohol – which was co-funded by EU Health Programme and the Scottish Government.

FYFA was a 3-year joint initiative that aimed to identify and promote good practices targeting the reduction of heavy episodic drinking among young people and develop recommendations regarding alcohol for youth sport clubs across the EU.

Healthy Stadia has supported the FYFA project throughout this period, helping to coordinate a several interviews for Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) to gain international perspectives from governing bodies of sport.

The project identified sport as one of the most popular activities for young people in Europe but found that it is underappreciated as a target for policy and behavioural change. Researchers quickly concluded that those working directly with children – coaches, club officials, parents and community leaders – should have access to the best policies and practices to help reduce underage drinking in their area.

During the lifetime of the FYFA project, researchers collated good practices at various policy levels (international, national, and local) and put forward the best available recommendations for people and/or sports organisations working directly with young people on a local level. The final webinar reviewed some of their key findings and research.

Dr Eric Carlin, Director of (SHAAP), put forward their review of policies and practices related to young people, alcohol, and international sport. Attendees learned more about best practices applied on international level in several sports associations as well as got the insights on loosely regulated policies. Dr Carlin said:

“Regulation of alcohol marketing and sponsorship within football is really reliant on industry self-regulation, with bans circumvented by the alcohol industry. This is about more than finances, this is about appealing to international sporting bodies to be more responsible, to think more carefully about the partnerships developed, and recognise the influence they have on young people. Sport can be a powerful tool for the positive and that includes the messages it decides to promote.”

Prof. Emanuele Scafato (MD, MSc) and Claudia Gandin (MD, LPC) from Istituto Superiore di Sanita (Italy) presented their findings from national level research in six EU member states – Belgium, Finland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and the UK. Their research explored the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of experts from sport settings and from those involved in preventative public health.

Their research provided insights on perceived obstacles and facilitators to promote strategies to reduce alcohol related harm in youth within sport contexts. Despite the presence of regulation, they found that there is a low level of knowledge and enforcement at national level and within sporting contexts and therefore there is greater need for cooperation across organisations in order to increase awareness.

Ellen Coghe from the Flemish Centre of expertise on alcohol and other drugs (Belgium) presented their review of local policies and practices related to young people, sport, and alcohol in six local youth sports clubs in the previously mentioned Member States. Senior managers and staff at local youth clubs were interviewed to gather their views to learn more about clubs’ policies and practices.

The review found that there is a prevailing absence of focus on alcohol prevention and health promotion in the clubs’ documents. Whilst sports club’s stakeholders are well aware of the risks involving alcohol consumption by their young athletes, the implementation of systematic health promotion initiatives covering alcohol consumption is lacking.

Leena Sipinen from the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (Finland) presented results from interviews with young people from Belgium, Finland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, and the UK about alcohol in sports settings and reducing alcohol-related risks and harms. Her presentation included insights from young people, including a video on how they perceive alcohol being associated with sports, alcohol marketing and regulation, as well as how engagement in sport can be an important protective factor against alcohol-related harms for young people.

Finally, Dr Katarzyna Okulicz-Kozaryn from PARPA (Poland) introduced recommendations for youth sport clubs. Dr Okulicz-Kozaryn said:

“There are three domains crucial for the effectiveness of alcohol prevention in sports environment: (1) International, national and local policies regulating alcohol use, distribution and marketing in sports settings; (2) Preventive interventions to be implemented in sports settings and (3) Social climate, determined mainly by interpersonal relationships in sports environment and clubs ideology.”

The FYFA research demonstrated that there is a need for more communication and advocacy in sports settings about the negative impact of alcohol on health. FYFA concluded that governmental and national sporting organisations should support local alcohol prevention initiatives and training programmes on alcohol-related harm for different target audiences within sports settings.

The researchers believe that the FYFA results and recommendations will help to support policy changes at international, national and local levels, which will contribute to reducing alcohol related harm among young people and establish healthier environments. Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare, said:

“We are delighted to conclude the FYFA project and we hope that the work we have done here can be taken forward and further developed by exploring the field of sports and alcohol among young people.”

For more information about the FYFA project, please contact the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) using the details below.

Mariann Skar: Secretary General

Michael Viggars

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