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Published: Wednesday, 11th April 2018

Royal Greenwich encourages football associations, leagues and clubs not to renew sponsorship deals with junk food brands.

The Council's Director of Public Health, Steve Whiteman, was among 60 signatories of an open letter which aims to cut child obesity by reducing young fans' exposure to food and drinks which are high in fat, sugar and salt.

The letter, which is part of the Sugar Smart campaign from food charity Sustain, notes that unhealthy brands attempt to associate with healthy and active lifestyles by teaming up with clubs - but their products often contain high amounts of saturated fat, sugar and/or salt.

Obesity at all-time high

This creates mixed messaging at a time when childhood obesity is at an all-time high. Almost one in four children are above a healthy weight when they start primary school and this rises to more than one in three by the time they leave primary school.

The British Dental Association and the British Association for Sustainable Sport are among those who have signed the letter which is addressed to several football organisations including the Premier League and the Football Association.

'Builds on Council pledges'

Steve Whiteman, Director of Public Health, said: "By continuing to sign sponsorship deals from junk food brands, football associations, leagues and clubs are doing impressionable young fans a disservice.

"The Council has pledged to remove sugary drinks from vending machines and review sponsorship from companies which promote unhealthy food and drink and there's no reason why clubs can't follow in our footsteps. By making it more convenient to choose food and drink which is low in sugar, fat and salt, together we can help drive down obesity."

Sugar Smart Greenwich

Greenwich launched Sugar Smart Greenwich, which asks local organisations to promote healthier, lower sugar alternatives, in January last year with support from the Jamie Oliver Foundation and Good Food in Greenwich. Charlton Athletic Football Club and Community Trust and Charlton Park Rugby Club were among the venues who pledged to help people eat and drink less sugar.

In December, the Council passed a motion with further pledges to tackle obesity. These included developing a policy for future marketing and advertising contracts, engaging more businesses with the Healthier Catering Commitment, removing sugary drinks from Council buildings and actively promoting free drinking water.

'Making healthy choices easier'

Deb Browne, Charlton Athletic Community Trust's Head of Health Improvement, said: "We have made it easier for Charlton fans of all ages to make healthy choices and hope other football clubs will follow suit. Charlton Athletic Community Trust, Delaware North and Charlton Athletic FC introduced a levy on sugary drinks in July last year, more than eight months before the Government's levy came into place, and we have used the revenue gained to fund holiday hunger programmes.

"All drinks at Charlton Athletic Community Trust events are sugar-free and we also run healthy eating workshops in youth clubs and sell fruit in our tuck shops."