*What role do football clubs play in promoting healthy lifestyles? Can identification with a football club encourage participation in sport and being more critical about what one eats? Can stadia be places in which we find comfort?
Football is an integral part of communal life in The Netherlands. The country has the world’s highest participation rates in club football per capita (see Simon Kuper 2003). Although there are only four large stadia – Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena (on the southern fringe of Amsterdam and home to Ajax, de Kuip (in Rotterdam, home of Feyenoord), Philips Stadium (in Eindhoven, home of PSV) and Kyocera Stadium (in The Hague, home of ADO Den Haag) – the Dutch landscape is marked by the rectangular shapes of football grounds and hockey grounds. These grounds are rarely open for the public and are often lined with fences and have locked gates. The grounds belong to football clubs, and if one wants to play, one must join a club, or be satisfied playing on half-sized grounds in improvised public spaces. The Netherlands has high population density, and land is at premium. Due to its low-lying geography the landscape needs to be managed, controlled intensely, which is reflected in the highly organised nature of the country’s use of public and green space: the landscape needs to serve an environmental function as well as providing a communal, recreation space.
*the first paragraph of my forthcoming article in ‘Healthy Stadia’, a special edition of Sport in Society journal, edited by Dr.Dan Parnell (Manchester Metropolitan University)