A partnership between the Premier League and Cadbury has been criticised by health campaigners, who called it “little more than a marketing ploy”.
The three-year sponsorship deal covers events such as the Golden Boot award and includes promoting healthy lifestyles to schoolchildren.
Cadbury said it would “help educate people” on nutrition, healthy eating and exercise.
But critics said chocolate should not be associated with healthy lifestyles.
Under the sponsorship deal, the Premier League plans to help scale up Cadbury’s existing Health for Life scheme, which works with 60,000 children to encourage them to be healthy.
The £3.1m scheme, based in south Birmingham, is funded by Cadbury’s owners Mondelez, but it is not branded. The Premier League says that approach will continue under the new arrangement.
New sessions will be added from the start of the 2017-18 season when Cadbury becomes a partner of the league.
‘Laden with sugar’
National Obesity Forum spokesman, Tam Fry, said: “If the sponsorship meant that a host of kids would be encouraged to exercise and kick footballs to kingdom come, but didn’t come near a bar of chocolate, the forum might regard it as money well spent.
“But since the Premier League is rich enough to do this on its own anyway, and Cadbury could be looking at a downturn in the confectionery market, we regard this as little more than a marketing ploy.”
The pairing has also drawn criticism from Action on Sugar.
Nutritionist and campaign manager for the group Jennifer Rosborough said: “Whilst we fully support initiatives geared to promoting healthy lifestyles for children, chocolate, which is laden with sugar, should be an occasional treat and not associated with healthy living.
“Companies should choose their partnerships more responsibly.”
Cadbury was also criticised when it became one of the sponsors for the London 2012 Olympics.
The confectioner said the partnership with the league would “inspire school pupils about healthy lifestyles”.
A spokeswoman said: “We know we have a responsibility, along with the rest of the food industry, to help address public health concerns. That’s why we are planning significant community activity to help educate people on the role of nutrition, healthy eating and exercise.
“While we have already seen great success from the Health for Life scheme, we feel that through this partnership with the Premier League we will be able to make a bigger impact together.”
A spokesman for the Premier League told the BBC: “Our support for their Health for Life programme is one part of the partnership – Health for Life is an existing initiative that promotes healthy lifestyles to young people.
“We will work together to make sure this programme reaches more people than ever before, makes a bigger impact and inspires young people across the country.”