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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
World Cup is rapped over sponsors
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World Cup bosses, and England's Football Association, have been criticised for taking sponsorship from companies selling "unhealthy" products.

Public health doctors, writing in the Lancet, questioned the inclusion of companies such as Budweiser and McDonald's as FIFA official partners.

And they express concern over the FA's links with similar companies.

A spokeswoman for the FA said McDonald's, for example, contributed to football through funding coaching.

But the authors say sports bodies should only take cash from such firms if they agree to promote healthy living.

It might be worth thinking about attaching health promotion commitments to sponsorship agreements
Dr Jeff Colin, Edinburgh University

The Lancet paper, written by Dr Jeff Collin, of Edinburgh University's Centre for International Public Health Policy, and Dr Ross MacKenzie, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is published in advance of a Which? magazine poll.

The survey is expected to show just over half of people agree that brands associated with unhealthy foods should not have been allowed to sponsor this year's World Cup

The Lancet paper says FIFA, which organises the World Cup, did have a good record in avoiding relationships with inappropriate sponsors.

In 2002, FIFA was given anti-tobacco award from the World Health Organisation for the 2002 World Cup after making the tournament tobacco-free.

But they say that, for this competition, the ban on smoking in stadiums has been dropped and branded lighters and ashtrays are among official merchandise.

'Questionable' links

And they say: "The presence among FIFA's current official partners of Budweiser beer, McDonald's and Coca-Cola illustrates the tensions that exist between international sport and health promotion.

We have built up a proud heritage of supporting football, from grassroots level to the glory of international tournaments, for more than 25 years
McDonald's spokeswoman

"This tension highlights the need for sports organisations to reassess their relations with sponsors and for governments to reassess both the scope of existing regulation and the terms of public investment in elite sport."

The last World Cup attracted a cumulative audience of 28.8 billion viewers across 213 countries.

For this competition, 15 global brands have each paid an estimated $40m for the sponsorship opportunities linked to being an Official Partner.

The Lancet paper's authors also note that FIFA, the English Football Association (FA) and the 2012 London Olympic Games have McDonald's as one of their official corporate partners.

The researchers say that, given the significance of obesity as a health problem, such associations are "highly questionable".

'No ban'

Dr Collin added: "The 2012 London Olympics will require over 2.3 billion in public investment, an undertaking justified in part via the claim to provide a legacy for health.

"The Games aim to inspire 'a new generation to greater sporting activity and achievement, helping foster a healthy and active nation', an ambition we find difficult to reconcile with the presence of McDonald's and Coca-Cola as official sponsors."

But he added: "We don't necessarily think a ban on such links should be introduced.

"But it might be worth thinking about attaching health promotion commitments to sponsorship agreements."

A spokeswoman for the FA said: "We have worked with McDonald's very successfully over the years as they contribute a great deal to our grassroots football through their coaching development programme and other initiatives."

And in a statement, McDonald's said: "We have built up a proud heritage of supporting football, from grassroots level to the glory of international tournaments, for more than 25 years.

"We are focused on encouraging more young people to participate in football by making the game more accessible and appealing to families and youngsters."

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