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Scottish football fans celebrate losing (weight)

Fans are put through their paces. Picture: SPFL

Fans are put through their paces. Picture: SPFL

A fitness programme devised by Scottish football chiefs to tackle obesity among fans has led to a loss of 2,000kg of weight between over 700 participants.

Supporters from 13 SPFL clubs have benefited from a new initiative, Football Fans in Training (FFIT), aimed at helping to improve the health of male fans.

The research, led by a team at Glasgow University and funded by the Scottish Government and the Football Pools, was hailed as a “powerful endorsement” of the positive power of Scottish football on men’s health.

The study found that Rangers and Celtic fans lost more weight than any other supporters over a 12-month period, shedding 271.1kg and 213.3 kg respectively.

St Johnstone fans managed to achieve the greatest mean weight loss, shifting an average of 8kg (or 8.3 per cent of their total weight) over 12 months.

Nine other Scottish Premiership clubs took part, as well as Hamilton, who play in the Scottish Championship.

The average participant of all clubs was a 47-year-old male, losing 5.6kg (5 per cent) in weight and 7.3cm from their waistlines.

All participants lost a collective 23m from their waistlines - more than double the distance from a penalty spot to the goal-line.

In 2011, 747 participants were invited to undertake a 12-week physical activity and healthy eating programme, and trained at their football club’s facilities while receiving advice on diet and exercise. Ninety per cent of participants were obese before the programme.

The study has been featured in The Lancet and BMC Public Health journals, and was praised for being effective and demonstrating value for money.

Derek Spence, who has lost 14.9kg (2 stones, 5lbs) since starting FFIT at Hibernian FC in September 2011 said: “I had tried to do fitness things before, and my motivation had let me down. But coming to Hibs and doing the Football Fans in Training Programme gave me a lot more confidence to continue with it. Since then, I’ve done an 18 lap run around the pitch at Easter Road for charity I play 90 minutes of football and 5-a-side. Things I wouldn’t have looked at before now, I do now. I also learnt so much about things like portion sizes: you already know you might be eating too much, but seeing it in front of you makes all of the difference. It’s just been a fantastic experience.”

Billy Singh, General Manager of the SPFL Trust which worked in partnership with clubs to encourage their involvement in the programme, said: “These just might be the best set of results of the season. All participating clubs should be congratulated on the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes to help achieve these fantastic outcomes and the SPFL Trust is very proud of the role it has played.”

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said: “This is a powerful endorsement of the positive force Scottish football can play off the pitch, helping to make a significant and hugely positive contribution to the lives of many.”

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