New Oxfordshire football collaboration blows the final whistle on smoking

Oxfordshire County Council is joining forces with local football organisations to raise awareness of the impact of smoking.

Oxfordshire Smokefree Sidelines is a partnership between the Oxfordshire Football Association, Berks and Bucks Football Association, Active Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire County Council and counties’ four local youth football leagues.

The new collaboration will be looking to help to create healthy, safe places that provide everyone the opportunity to enjoy their chosen sport or activity in a smoke-free environment.

Clubs taking part will be supported to help adults be a role model for children and young people by not smoking whilst watching training or matches - seven out of ten smokers start before they are 18 years old.

One of the organisations getting involved in the campaign to stop spectators smoking on the sidelines is Bloxham Football Club, based near Banbury.

The club, which runs 18 teams – ranging from under-sixes to veterans – has put up signs around its pitches telling parents and spectators that anyone lighting up a cigarette will be asked to put it out. If they refuse, the game will be stopped until they comply.

Bloxham FC’s Welfare Officer, Vikki Evans, said: “We know that children copy what they see, and we feel that adults need to be responsible around children – not setting a bad example.

“Although Oxfordshire FA has said we don’t need to approach people at games who are smoking, our committee has agreed this is such a serious issue that we will ask supporters to stop if necessary and if they fail to do that, we will stop the match they’re watching. I don’t think this is a big ask.”

Dr Adam Briggs, Consultant in Public Health at Oxfordshire County Council said: “We are proud to be supporting Smokefree Sidelines. As part of our ambition for Oxfordshire to be smoke free by 2025, this initiative will help to create a healthy environment for children and young people to enjoy playing sport.”

Clubs who agree to adopt an Oxfordshire Smokefree Sidelines policy and participate will receive a range of support and benefits including a briefing session about the scheme, a pre-written policy to adopt, promotional material, and free resources for games and training sessions.

The programme is part of Oxfordshire’s Tobacco Control Strategy, which outlines a vision for being England’s first smoke-free county. We’re aiming for less than one in 20 adults to still be smoking by 2025 – five years sooner than aimed for in the Government's national Tobacco Control Plan for England.

Despite a decline in smoking rates in recent years, more than one in ten adults in Oxfordshire continue to smoke and nearly 900 children start smoking every year. Smoking remains England’s single greatest cause of preventable illness and avoidable death, resulting in 78,000 deaths from smoking-related diseases in 2016 alone.

Grass roots football can still go ahead under the new “rule of six” if the clubs are COVID-secure. The council encourages all spectators, besides not smoking on the sidelines, to ensure that they wash their hands and maintain appropriate social distancing. This will help keep the infection under control and get children back to playing the sport they love.

More information

For more information about Oxfordshire Smokefree Sidelines, please visit https://www.oxfordshirefa.com/leagues-and-clubs/smokefree-sidelines