Football supporters don’t much like the food available at their teams’ grounds and want something healthier. That is the conclusion of research recently carried out in Liverpool, England at an unamed English premier league club.
The research, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, concluded there was ‘a high level of dissatisfaction with the food and drink supplied’ including the type of food available, the quality and the pricing. There was a clear demand for healthier food options (and a wider choice of in general), which, the reserchers suggest, ‘may provide an economic opportunity for stadium and catering managers’.
There were, however, key differences in the views of the male and female participants in the focus groups, with the women more concerned about wider issues such as the lack of healthy food.
Healthy eating was not something men traditionally associated with football grounds. One 28 year-old male told the researchers: ‘I think when I’m not at the match, in general, I try and eat healthily, but coming to the games it’s a rare treat, so when I’m there I’m out for the day, I’m getting into the spirit of it, and have a pie.’
Women felt that the food available didn’t reflect their needs. ‘We want a different service to what’s being offered, to the masculine mentality of a pub, drinking, cigarette smoking, and pie and pint,’ said one female fan in her 40s.
'I like pies'
But it wasn’t just the nature of the fare on offer. It was the quality too. A 34 year-old woman said: ‘Well, I like pies, but the pies that I’ve sampled here and at football grounds are just awful, generally, really awful.’
Both men and women agreed that food and drink prices were too high, and expressed concern that the club ‘played on their loyalty’. ‘You don’t want to be made a fool of because you support the club,’ said one man.
But the researchers felt this loyalty could be harnessed to send healtheir eating messages as part of the healthy stadia initiative. ‘The study shows that. In addition, a stadium may be considered a potential ‘healthy setting’, which can serve as a supportive environment for healthier food choices
The researchers conclude: ‘Public health practitioners can help clubs develop a key role in providing examples of good practice, particularly to young people, of the importance of healthy food and drink as part of a healthy lifestyle. This would help to balance the inconsistencies between the healthy lifestyles of the players and the food the clubs provide to their supporters.
‘Football clubs could be encouraged to reflect on their iconic status within their communities and demonstrate social responsibility in the food and drink supplied to their supporters.’ he present research has shown that if public health
Of key concern to both those interviewed and the researchers are the contradicting messages children receive. ‘In school, the emphasis is on healthy eating, but in our football clubs – which remain possibly the biggest sporting influence on the lives of young people – the culture is anything but healthy as fans continue to consume fizzy drinks, burgers and hot dogs.’ Not the sort of diet that’s going to set you up for a career in football.