Debating Room - McFun - For Sale - Search - What's New? - Mailing List
27/01/03 . n/a . The Guardian . UK
Watchdog cries foul over footballers' junk food endorsements
Premiership footballers including current and former England captains Alan Shearer and David Beckham are compromising health education campaigns by accepting promotion deals from fatty, salty and sugary food brands, it has been claimed.
Nine Premier League clubs and the Football Association also came in for criticism from lobbyists the Food Commission, which said that they were promoting fizzy drinks and junk food to children.
Beckham, who has promoted Pepsi, and Shearer, and who has in the past appeared in adverts for McDonald's, are among a number of players who have signed up for the advertising deals criticised.
Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen, football pundit and former England hero Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne also come in for criticism.
Teams criticised included Manchester United for its high-profile link-up with Pepsi, Tottenham Hotspur for working with McDonald's, and Sunderland for accepting sponsorship from Coca Cola and McDonald's.
The sport's coordinating body, the Football Association, was singled out as one of the worst offenders for circulating nutrition advice to schools and football academies written and sponsored by Mars and promoting Snickers chocolate bars, which are high in fat and sugar.
"None of the food brands promoted by Premier League clubs and the Football Association should be eaten by footballers in the run-up to a game," said Annie Seeley, nutritionist and campaigns officer for the Food Commission.
"With rising levels of obesity and diabetes in children, top footballers could be excellent role models for children, demonstrating the link between good diet and good health.
"But instead we see adverts showing top players from Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers drinking Pepsi, the Premier League logo on Walkers Crisps, and the Football Association encouraging children to eat chocolate bars and wear McDonald's branded football kit."
The only Premier League team found to be offering unbiased health advice to children, without compromise from junk food sponsorship, was West Ham.
The club offers an education programme sponsored by SportsMatch and Railtrack, involving children in physical exercise and giving nutrition advice under the title An Active Life + A Healthy Balanced Diet = Healthy Living.
Referring to any relationship the FA holds with food or drink manufacturers, FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said they were used in a context to promote football for the good of the game.
He said: "With our partners we work extremely hard to encourage all age groups to participate in football activities.
"In doing so, we also encourage a healthy and active lifestyle. Any consumption of any products that we endorse is always used in conjunction with a balanced, healthy diet.
"This is something that the FA invests in very heavily through time and finance."