Football clubs criticised for junk food sponsorships

LONDON - Manchester United has been singled out in a report and criticised for promoting 'junk' foods with its links to Pepsi, in a new report saying football clubs should do more to promote healthy eating.

The report, by the Food Commission, slams nine Premier League clubs for promoting junk foods and drinks to children, including Manchester United; Tottenham Hotspur, which has links to McDonald's; and Sunderland, for its links with McDonald's and Coca-Cola.

Footballers have long been used by snack food brands to promote their products. Walkers Crisps, for example, has a long-running campaign starring Gary Lineker and also featuring Liverpool's Michael Owen and the now clubless Paul Gascoigne; and Newcastle United and former England skipper Alan Shearer has appeared in ads for McDonald's.

Pepsi, which has used Manchester United and England star David Beckham, is singled out in the report, with the watchdog saying: "It seems that everyone in the team loves Pepsi. Thankfully, they [Manchester United] can afford the best dental care, so tooth decay shouldn't be a problem for them, although it may be for their millions of fans."

Of the Premier League football clubs, only West Ham is praised for its efforts in promoting healthy living to young football fans. Yesterday, it lost 6-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup.

The Football Association itself has been singled out for criticism for sending out nutritional advice to schools and football academies written and sponsored by Mars, and promoting Snickers chocolate bars.

Annie Seeley, a nutritionist and campaigns officer at the Food Commission, said: "None of the food brands promoted by Premier League clubs and the Football Association should be eaten by footballers in the run-up to a game. With rising levels of obesity and diabetes in children, top footballers could be excellent role models for children, demonstrating the link between good diet and good health.

"But instead we see advertisements showing top players from Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers drinking Pepsi, the Premier League logo on Walkers Crisps and the Football Association encouraging children to eat chocolate bars and wear McDonald's-branded football kit."

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