England, the World Cup and childhood obesity
The biggest sporting event on the planet is dominated by junk food advertising – and today Public Health England announced that youngsters are eating twice the recommended amount of sugar.
So how much responsibility should events like the World Cup take for the rise poor diets and childhood obesity?
Here, Dr Joe Piggin explains the issue of 'exploitative advertising' and the steps which are being taken to combat it...
I hope England wins the World Cup, writes Dr Piggin, but whatever happens, children’s health is certainly losing.
The entire football “pyramid” in England is riddled with junk food companies.
Through their love of football, children in England are bombarded with marketing for ultra-processed food and drink.
It continues through their early years and into adulthood.
And it’s not sneaky, ambush marketing - it comes from official football organisations, events, venues, teams, and role models.
While sport marketers talk about the successful “reach” of sponsorship, public health promoters focus on the potentially disastrous effects these sponsors can have on children.
But it could all end very soon.
The food charity Sustain has told the government what action is needed in sport settings: “Campaigns are currently calling on sports associations to disassociate themselves from junk food brands, but if sports associations will not act, the Government must step in.”
And now a Health Committee in the UK Parliament has formally recommended it is time to end these partnerships:
“The next round of the Government’s childhood obesity plan… should also include a commitment to end sponsorship by brands overwhelmingly associated with high fat, sugar and salt products of sports clubs, venues, youth leagues and tournaments.”
This is massive news.
Sponsorship of children’s sport by junk food companies is pervasive and predatory.
It includes organisations such as the FA and FIFA, competitions such as the Premier league and Carabao Cup, venues such as Wembley, and programmes such as McDonald’s national youth sponsorship.
To keep the momentum and pressure on the government to make these changes you can state your support with Sustain here.
For the health of children, this English football food pyramid needs to come tumbling down.
This problem is not confined to England either.
It’s global. I plan to track other countries soon.
See this recent research in the USA about the pervasiveness of junk food advertising in USA sport.
Read Dr Piggin's recent paper, How does health policy affect practice at a sport mega event? A study of policy, food and drink at Euro 2016.
This article was first published in Dr Piggin's blog which can be found here.
Notes for editors
Press release reference number: 18/89
Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com
Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.
It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey and named University of the Year in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018.
Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2019, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2019. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.
Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.
The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.