All players are winners for a Wirral football league launched at Pensby High School last month, where overweight men shed weight in a competitive, friendly environment.
MAN v FAT is a specialist football league for men who are either overweight or obese.
Their goals are simple: to provide a non-judgmental environment where men can enjoy football; to lose weight and to improve their general health and well-being.
Sporting team names such as Scranmere Rovers and Hugeventus Wirral, players are rewarded not just for winning games but for losing weight, too – with weekly weight loss counting towards a team’s goal tally.
MAN v FAT is the first weight-loss scheme to be officially endorsed by the Football Association, and players are encouraged to keep a watchful eye on their nutrition through keeping a food journal.
The Wirral league is going from strength to strength, having lost 50kg in its first month alone.
For Bryan Nugent, one of the latest players to join the pitch, the chance to take part in a sport he loves is a “huge motivator.”
Bryan said: “I played football as a kid but then stopped. When I did stop playing, I started putting the weight on.
“I have been to many weight-loss groups in the past. Although they work for some, there’s not enough focus on the activity side of things. It’s also particularly difficult because there’s not a lot of support aimed specifically at men.”
“Being a man, I sometimes feel those kinds of groups are female-dominated, so I found it challenging to open up to women about my weight-loss problems. Of course, women are very supportive, but I felt a bit uncomfortable talking to women about my issues.
“Here, whether I’m playing the game or getting weighed, I can open up more because I know I’m surrounded by people facing similar situations.
“Best of all, it’s not about winning. It’s about taking that first step onto the field, having fun, and having the chance to play the beautiful game.”
Wirral has a strong reputation for bringing out astonishing football players – yet, at the same time, the borough continues to struggle with losing weight.
Over 160,000 adults on the Wirral are thought to be either overweight or obese, accounting for over 60% of residents on the borough.
While Wirral’s women are more statistically inclined to obesity than men, figures suggest women are likely to drop to a healthy weight after implementing common weight-loss schemes.
Men on the Wirral are more likely to be overweight, but tend to struggle maintaining their weight-loss journey.
Tony Hardwick is a local referee with 12 years-experience to his name.
He has watched the games flourish over the last month and, in his eyes, Wirral’s MAN v FAT leagues stand out from traditional local football teams.
After every game, win or lose, Tony says that “everyone’s a winner.”
Tony said: “In my twelve years as a referee, I have never seen so many people smiling when they lose a game.
“Losing is just as important as winning for these guys. Each time we wrap up a match, the teams walk over, shake each other’s hands and ask each other: ‘what did you lose this week?’
“That’s the beauty of it all. Your teammates and the players in the teams you’re up against have all got the same goal. It’s a support network.
“Everyone’s got football, but each player is trying to lose weight. That gives them a common focus, helping them come together.”
MAN v FAT games have enjoyed success across the country since its launch in January 2016.
Since then, 90% of all players who joined a local league have lost weight, with 62% hitting their 5% weight loss target in the first month.
A similar number of people – 93% – have reported a range of improvements to their general health, such as curing sleep apnea and halting the impact of diabetes.
More than 260,000 Ibs has been lost so far across the country, with neighbours in Liverpool having lost 1,000kg in weight overall.
The Wirral league is open to new members, regardless of fitness levels or experience.