Cancer awareness scheme launched at English football clubs

26 September 2009

A new scheme launched today at five English football clubs will help educate men about the symptoms and risks of ‘male’ cancers and encourage them to go to their doctor earlier when they show the symptoms.

The new one-year pilot initiative called Ahead of the Game — Organise Your Defence, will use the appeal of football to improve men's knowledge of the signs and symptoms of lung, bowel and prostate cancers. Men aged 55 and over are most at risk of dying from these cancers and are also a group that avoids going to see their doctor when troublesome symptoms show.

The Football Foundation will run the pilot scheme, which will raise awareness of these symptoms in a variety of ways, including nurses giving out information and free health tests at matches and community road shows.

The scheme is part funded by the Department of Health and is being run at: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Blackburn Rovers, Scunthorpe United and Norwich City.

Some of the many promotional activities that the teams are involved in include:

  • a fans’ marquee prior to Portsmouth’s home fixtures where practice nurses will distribute information about the three target cancers and carry out health tests such as blood pressure, CO2 levels, weight measurements;
  • pub quizzes containing cancer awareness questions will be held by football club staff at Brighton and Hove Albion FC with prizes including match tickets, signed merchandise and training ground visits; and
  • Blackburn Rovers will run community road shows and offer free screening alongside the routine screening services offered by the local primary care trust.

However, none of the clubs has any mention of the scheme on their websites.

Launching the project at Portsmouth Football Club, Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “Currently over 60,000 men get these cancers every year — that’s enough to fill the average football stadium twice. By raising awareness of the symptoms and making earlier diagnoses, we can improve the chances of survival. Ahead of the Game is a fantastic initiative which will use the massive appeal of our national game to raise awareness of cancer and help save lives.”

Chief Executive of the Football Foundation Paul Thorogood said: "Men are still, all-too-often, unaware of the early signs and symptoms of cancer and uncomfortable about seeking help at an early enough stage.

“Football has proven to be an extremely effective vehicle to reach very large audiences. In this case, to get the message to high risk groups, such as men over 55, about what the early signs of cancer are, and how essential it is that they should present themselves to their doctor as early as possible to improve their chances of beating it.

"This unique partnership between football and the Department of Health will go a long way towards reinforcing the understanding of what to look for and to ensure that men stay Ahead of the Game on cancer."

England football hero Bobby Moore died of bowel cancer 16 years ago after being misdiagnosed for several years. His Widow Stephanie set up the Bobby Moore Fund to raise money for Cancer UK to research bowel cancer. She  said: “I fully support this campaign which I hope will save the lives of thousands of men. Cancer can be a daunting thing to think about and I understand that some men shy away from talking about it but I hope that through football we can break through these barriers.”

The Department of Health is giving the Football Foundation £86,000 to support the scheme and the Football Foundation has added £100,000 funding which will go as grants to the five football clubs participating in the programme.

Further information

The Football Foundation:

Cancer Research UK:
The National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI):

Spot cancer early

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