The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has come under fire from health advocacy groups who said their new domestic tournament The Hundred promotes junk food with its sponsorship deal with KP Snacks.
The 100-ball format tournament, which will be played during the English summer starting July 2020, was launched on Thursday and all eight city-based teams' kits prominently feature logos of the British-based brand's products, which are mainly maize, potato, and nut-based snacks.
KP Snacks was announced as the tournament's 'official team partner' in July by the ECB in a bid to grow the game and encourage families to be more active but health advocacy groups said it would have a negative effect, especially on children.
"Junk food brands' sponsorship of popular sporting events is just another way they make sure their unhealthy products take centre stage in children's minds," Caroline Cerny of the Obesity Health Alliance said in statement.
"We know that the relentless exposure to junk food marketing that children today are exposed to influences their food choices and how much they eat."
KP Snacks said they recognised they had a responsibility to provide people with healthier snacking choices, adding that they had reduced the amount of salt content in their core products.
"We believe that snacks can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise," a KP Snacks spokeswoman told Reuters. "We have also reformulated existing recipes and introduced new lower salt products."
The ECB said the partnership with the snacks brand was an opportunity to use their "unprecedented reach" to grow the game.
"We agree it's critical to promote this partnership responsibly and we'll use our own platform... to educate and promote health, activity and balance as a core message," an ECB spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
"As part of our partnership, we'll get the opportunity to tap into their platform to engage with our core cricket fans, wider sports fans and families who we're targeting as part of The Hundred."
Tam Fry, the chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said the United Kingdom should follow the example of the city of Amsterdam that put an end to sports sponsorship by similar companies, which eventually led to a fall in obesity levels.
"The ECB could have found any number of rich philanthropic organisations to fund its laudable objectives," Fry told Reuters.
"Sadly it didn't, with the result that our children will shortly see their heroes turned into advertising hoardings. (It's) quite irresponsible and unbelievably sad."