Department of Health and Social Care
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Football to put the boot into cancer

Football to put the boot into cancer

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 25 September 2009

Strictly Embargoed: not for publication, broadcast or print before 00:01 on Saturday 26 September 2009

New pilot scheme will use football to promote awareness of cancer symptoms in men

A new scheme supported by football clubs across England will help educate men about the symptoms and risks of ‘male’ cancers and encourage them to present earlier with their symptoms, Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham announced today.

The new one year pilot initiative 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 in men aged 55 and over who are most at risk of dying from these cancers.

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.

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."

Campaigner for the Bobby Moore Foundation, Stephanie Moore 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.”

Notes to Editors

1. The one year pilot scheme which is part funded by the Department of Health and five football clubs will take part - Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Blackburn Rovers, Scunthorpe United and Norwich City.

2. 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.
- Blackburn Rovers will run community road shows and offer free screening alongside the routine screening services offered by the local Primary Care Trust.

3. The key symptoms of these cancers are:
Bowel cancer:
- A persistent change in normal bowel habit, such as going to the toilet more often and diarrhoea, especially if there is also bleeding from the back passage
- Bleeding from the back passage without any reason, particularly over the age of 50
- A lump in the tummy or a lump in the back passage felt by a doctor
Lung cancer:
- A cough that doesn’t go away after two to three weeks
- Worsening or change of a long-standing cough
- Persistent chest infections
- Coughing blood
Prostate cancer: - Needing to pass water (pee) often, especially at night.
- Difficulty in starting to pee.
- Straining to pee or taking a long time to finish.
- Pain when passing water or during sex.

4. For more information, please view the Football Foundation website at ( Or for more information on the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative visit

5. The Department of Health has allocated the Football Foundation £86,000 across two financial years, (2008 – 2010), to support Ahead of the Game. The DH allocation is being used by the Football Foundation to fund the project manager post, publicity and marketing, and the development of some promotional materials. For 2009-10, the Football Foundation have added £100,000 funding which will go as grants to the football clubs selected to participate in the programme.

6. For media enquiries please call the Department of Health Media Centre on 020 7210 5221


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221