Leader comment: Football shows it can be a force for good

The Football Fans in Training (FFIT) initiative was first piloted eight years ago in a link-up between the SPFL Trust, the University of Glasgow and 13 professional clubs, with the goal of training men to help them achieve significant weight loss. Picture: Youtube
The Football Fans in Training (FFIT) initiative was first piloted eight years ago in a link-up between the SPFL Trust, the University of Glasgow and 13 professional clubs, with the goal of training men to help them achieve significant weight loss. Picture: Youtube
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They might shun slimming classes but offer them the chance to play at their own club and they’re hooked

It’s our national game, but football is barely in credit with the people of Scotland.

Eye-watering prices for replica strips and tickets, players who will readily roll around to feign injury, and corruption at the highest levels of the game. Twenty two millionaires chasing a white ball? No thanks, many people say.

But today we update on how football is actively changing lives one by one, by using its power with fans to encourage them to be healthier and stay healthier.

The Football Fans in Training (FFIT) initiative was first piloted eight years ago in a link-up between the SPFL Trust, the University of Glasgow and 13 professional clubs, with the goal of training men to help them achieve significant weight loss.

These are individuals who would never be seen dead at Slimming World. But invite them to weekly exercise sessions at their favourite club and huge numbers will apply.

Long-term research to be presented at Hampden Park today shows that it has worked not only in the short term, but these individuals are keeping the weight off.

Men also continued to be more active, ate increased amount of fruit and vegetables and improved their self-esteem during FFIT participation.

Such results prove that football can be an agent for real social change.

Following its initial success with men in Scotland, the FFIT programme has now been taken up by professional football clubs in England and Germany, and has been modified for other sports like rugby union in England and New Zealand, Aussie rules football and ice hockey in Canada.

Sport has a unique opportunity to reach out to Scotland’s communities in a way that nothing else can. We haven’t done enough with that potential but this is changing.

Clubs like Hibernian, led by their pioneering chief executive Leeann Dempster, have developed a public social partnership with the aim of tackling social inequality and delivering positive health, learning and social outcomes.

Put simply, many people feel far more comfortable in the football environment than in a council office or healthcare centre.

Football is turning around its image, and connecting with its fanbase like never before. And that is a move that can only benefit all parties.