An innovative health programme is harnessing the power of football to encourage young men to pay closer attention to their fitness.
Premier League Health (PLH) has been adopted by 16 football clubs in an attempt to reach out to over-18s.
The £1.6 million of funding from The Football Foundation allows the clubs with PLH status to implement programmes designed to raise men’s awareness and help them adopt healthier lifestyles.
A Premier League spokesman said: “An increasing proportion of young men are overweight or obese, leading to a significant risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and fat-related cancer, amongst other health problems. Currently there is limited provision for tackling the health needs in these vulnerable groups of men, specifically those in lower socio-economic environments.”
Around 3,000 men took part in PLH programmes this year, with clubs setting up regular training sessions and healthy eating classes. The Everton programme invited homeless men to take part in the initiative in the hope it would help them with other issues in their daily lives.
Ray Dermott, 27, from Liverpool, said: “I feel much better in myself. Stronger, healthier, fitter and I am willing to get up and do stuff. It’s transformed my whole life. It gave me something to look forward to on a Tuesday and a Saturday. It’s a great idea.”
Men’s health professor Alan White, based at Leeds Metropolitan University, is overseeing the project which follows the men for three months and tracks their health. He said: “The problem with young men of this age is they tend to think they can eat what they want and do what they want and it has not got any impact on them.”
However, Prof White said young men were stacking up problems for themselves in later life by not taking care of their health now.
Simon Morgan, Premier League head of community, said: “Premier League Health isn’t a programme that preaches to fans and it’s not going to ask them to change their match-day routine and get them to swap a pie for a salad. What it offers a wide group of men is the chance to make longer-term lifestyle changes.”
The clubs taking part in Premier League Health are Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Portsmouth, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United.