The Football Association of Wales (FAW) and FAW Trust are set to introduce a new policy prohibiting smoking on the sidelines of youth football games across Wales.
The decision by the FAW to introduce a no smoking policy on the sidelines of its small-sided football games is designed to help de-normalise smoking in the eyes of children and prevent them from taking up the habit in later life.
The smokefree sidelines measure makes FAW part of a small, but growing number of UEFA Member Associations to adopt and enforce No Smoking policies at small-sided football games. The Welsh policy will affect games and training sessions for 522 junior clubs, 3.159 teams and 42.232 players across Wales.
Research has shown that children are highly influenced by the behaviour of adults in their lives, including parents and sports coaches. Children with a parent who smokes are 70% more likely to smoke themselves in Wales.
The policy is part of a wider Smokefree Sports Wales campaign that aims to raise awareness of this intergenerational habit, with 9% of 15 to 16-year olds in Wales still smoking, and more than 6,000 children taking up smoking every year in Wales. The policy will also ensure that more children are protected from exposure to second-hand smoke which can contribute to acute heart problems and long-term respiratory conditions.
The policy was initially trialled at Rhondda & District Football League’s mini and junior football games and the South Wales Women’s and Girl’s League junior matches before the decision was made to introduce the policy across Wales as part of regulations aimed at encouraging a positive match day culture.
A survey by tobacco control campaign group, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales*, found that there is strong support for a ban on smoking on the side-lines, with 82% of adults in Wales in favour of banning smoking in outdoor areas where children play sport.
FAW are launching the policy today to mark World Heart Day on 29 September, which is run by the World Heart Federation and supported by UEFA and its Football and Social Responsibility partner for health and wellbeing, Healthy Stadia.
The launch also coincides with UEFA Grassroots Week, scheduled to take place between 23 to 30 September, in conjunction with the European Week of Sport (#BeActive) and in cooperation with the European Commission.
Dr David Adams, FAW Trust Technical Director, said:
“As a parent of children who take part in grassroots football, I am delighted to work in partnership with ASH Wales and that the FAW and FAW Trust are leading the way to help the next generation of children grow up recognising the health risks associated with smoking. This step change is also part of our wider agenda to ensure children’s first experiences of small sided football are positive.”
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:
“I welcome the work undertaken by the FAW to ban smoking on the sidelines of all Small-Sided Football games in Wales. Voluntary bans like this one help protect children from seeing smoking as an acceptable and normal behaviour and can help prevent them from taking up smoking in the first place.”
Matthew Philpott, Executive Director of Healthy Stadia said:
“We’re delighted to see FAW and FAW Trust introduce such a progressive policy to coincide with both World Heart Day and UEFA Grassroots Week. The new smokefree sidelines measure will help to further de-normalise tobacco smoking and help to eradicate any lingering association between tobacco and sport. Alongside reducing the number of cigarette butts littered at grassroots venues, the new policy will also help to minimise second-hand smoke creating a cleaner, happier and healthier environment for players, coaches, officials and spectators.”
Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales said:
“When children witness adults lighting up in everyday settings such as football pitches, they come to see smoking as a normal lifestyle choice, rather than the deadly addiction that it is. This policy will make a big difference to children’s perception of smoking and we very much hope that this will prevent many of them from ever taking up the habit and encourage parents that smoke to quit the habit.”