Lincoln MAN v FAT Football Club, fondly nicknamed the Fat Imps, is a team of men determined to lose weight who train and play their home games at The Priory Pembroke Academy in Cherry Willingham, an add on to the regular MAN v FAT league that runs on Wednesday evenings at Yarborough Leisure Centre. The Lincoln league is one of the largest in the UK and currently has 12 teams and 118 active members and to date, as a collective, the league has lost over 2 tonnes in weight.
Founded in 2014 by Andrew Shanahan, MAN v FAT aimed to provide diet tips and weight loss motivation directed at men. Having struggled with his own weight for a long time and noticing most weight loss groups were aimed at women, Andrew wondered how many other men out there were struggling with weight loss.
Shortly after, in 2016, MAN v FAT Football was launched as football with a difference – a football league exclusively for overweight men who want to lose weight. Uniquely, players are rewarded not just for winning games, but for losing weight too, with your weekly weight loss counting towards your team’s goals.
Since then, there have been over 100 MAN v FAT Football clubs in the UK, with Lincoln’s league launching in January 2020. “I have been the league coach since the very start” explains league coach and 11 aside manager Jake Garratt. “A few of the lads from the start are still active members now, same with the 11 aside team we started in May 2021. We’ve been playing the best part of two years now, where we have gone on to win the Midlands Eastern League and reached the MAN v FAT National Tournament knockout rounds 2 years in a row.”
The Fat Imps are a team for men of all abilities who have the desire to lose weight, and those with less experience in football shouldn’t be deterred. “We have the mentality that everyone is welcome to come and play no matter your ability” Jake explains, “we do have our first team, but we also have a development team for those who might not have ever played 11 aside football before, so we try to cater towards everyone, so everyone has an opportunity to play.”
The accountability this form of weight loss has is what makes it work, as your weekly weight loss will actively affect your teammates. “Your weight loss contributes to how you do on the pitch, meaning you could be the best team on the pitch but if you are the worst team off it, then you’re more than likely going to lose.”
Jake continues, “I think particularly the competitive nature of a lot of males really works and this leans on that in terms of not wanting to let your teammates down.”
The team have plenty of success stories with a member losing over 6 stone in the last 10 months, as well as two members who have played in the MAN v FAT Amazing Losers match in recognition for their amazing weight loss. Additionally, Kevin Stow, a member of the team who lost 5 stone, was told by his doctor, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, that the weight loss beforehand saved his life. Kevin has also been recognised for his achievements when he took home the Active Change award at the 2022 Lincolnshire Sports Awards.
Jake wants to ensure men interested in the group know they are all in the same boat and will support each other throughout their journey. “Some people are worried they will be the largest person or the worst player in the group, but they soon realise it is far more relaxed than that and that they are quickly welcomed. We are a group of likeminded people who want to change our lives, and this is a safe space to do that. Especially now, it is critical for people to drop their guard and find something that makes them feel safe and comfortable. We’ve had players who have got married and we’ve been invited to the wedding, so it’s not just a football club, it’s more personal than that.”
As well as helping each other lose weight, helping the community is also engrained in the ethos of the club and they have fundraised over £5,000 in the last two years for various causes. “When we started the 11 aside club, we wanted charity partners and one of our players is a chairman of the Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust, so we chose to give back to them as they are important to our team. LIVES are of course also massive in Lincolnshire and rely on a lot of funding, but they also saved the life of a player’s child, so it was key for us to raise money for them too. Fundraising was never a major aim at the start, but now we have started we will keep going.”