Helping football fans get fitter

Football Fans in Training delivers weight loss and healthy living programmes to overweight and obese men at their favourite football clubs. Since June 2011 more than 2,500 men have already taken part – successfully losing weight, becoming more active and eating a healthier diet.  

Obesity and its associated health risks are a major public health problem, with male obesity levels in the UK among the highest in Europe. In the UK alone obesity will cause hundreds of thousands more cases of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, with related medical costs set to increase by £1.9-2 billion/year by 2030. In Scotland only 10-30% of people attending weight management services are male. The University of Glasgow’s Football Fans in Training (FFIT) is an innovative collaboration between academics, Scotland’s top football clubs and the Scottish Professional Football League Trust.

The University of Glasgow-led team harnesses the loyalty and attachment many men feel to their football club to overcome the challenge of motivating this hard-to-reach group to lose weight and live more healthily. They conducted a 12-month randomised controlled trial, the first such rigorous scientific study of a public health scheme in a professional sports club setting, which in 2013 provided the clubs and public health organisations with robust evidence that this approach works.

In November 2013, work began on expanding FFIT to top-flight football clubs in the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and England, funded with £5.1M from the European Commission.

The evaluation showed that men who did the programme lost 9 times as much weight as those who didn’t. The programme resulted in lower blood pressure, smaller waist circumference and increased physical activity. The men began eating better - more fruits and vegetables and less sugars and fats - and reported improvements in self-esteem and physical and psychological wellbeing.

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