Background: The prevalence of obesity in men is rising, but they are less likely than women to engage in existing weight management programmes. The potential of professional sports club settings to engage men in health promotion activities is being increasingly recognised. This paper describes the development and optimization of the Football Fans in Training (FFIT) programme, which aims to help overweight men (many of them football supporters) lose weight through becoming more active and adopting healthier eating habits.
Methods: The MRC Framework for the design and evaluation of complex interventions was used to guide programme development in two phases. In Phase 1, a multidisciplinary working group developed the pilot programme (p-FFIT) and used a scoping review to summarize previous research and identify the target population. Phase 2 involved a process evaluation of p-FFIT in 11 Scottish Premier League (SPL) clubs. Participant and coach feedback, focus group discussions and interviews explored the utility/acceptability of programme components and suggestions for changes. Programme session observations identified examples of good practice and problems/issues with delivery. Together, these findings informed redevelopment of the optimized programme (FFIT), whose components were mapped onto specific behaviour change techniques using an evidence-based taxonomy.
Results: p-FFIT comprised 12, weekly, gender-sensitised, group-based weight management classroom and 'pitch-side' physical activity sessions. These in-stadia sessions were complemented by an incremental, pedometer-based walking programme. p-FFIT was targeted at men aged 35-65 years with body mass index >= 27 kg/m(2). Phase 2 demonstrated that participants in p-FFIT were enthusiastic about both the classroom and physical activity components, and valued the camaraderie and peer-support offered by the programme. Coaches appreciated the simplicity of the key healthy eating and physical activity messages. Suggestions for improvements that were incorporated into the optimized FFIT programme included: more varied in-stadia physical activity with football-related components; post-programme weight management support (emails and a reunion session); and additional training for coaches in SMART goal setting and the pedometer-based walking programme.
Conclusions: The Football Fans in Training programme is highly acceptable to participants and SPL coaches, and is appropriate for evaluation in a randomised controlled trial.