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The novel ways that football clubs are tackling the climate crisis


On Sunday, the Premier League will host what is billed as the world’s first net zero game. Are your green credentials piling up? And how are clubs tackling climate change?

This weekend, Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea was heralded as the world’s first major zero-carbon football match and Sky broadcasters promoted the London derby with the usual dynamism of major matches.

There are bombastic graphics and behind-the-scenes interviews, except when there’s more talk of biofuel buses and bike locks. So can the game start a conversation about sustainability in sport?

“I think it’s great that it’s happening,” he says. Forest green rovers president, Dale Vince. Since taking over the Gloucestershire-based team in 2010, Vince has become a pioneer in the sport – the Pep Guardiola of sustainable football.

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In addition to being completely vegan, including all food sold at the stadium, the Rovers run exclusively on green energy and carbon-neutral gas. Even the pitch is organic. FIFA announced the League Two team as the greenest in the world. The UN certified them as carbon neutral. When it comes to sustainability, Rovers are way ahead.

“In trying to achieve a low carbon game, at the elite level, the Spurs, Chelsea and Sky have done something good, they have set the bar somewhere, and surely others will follow,” says Vince.

The Spurs also have the advantage of playing at home. According to Positive sports leagues, which monitors sustainability initiatives implemented by top-level clubs, Tottenham Hotspur is currently the greenest club in the Premier League.

How football is coping with the climate crisis

Forest Green Rovers President Dale Vince is a green pioneer in the sport. Image: Forest Green Rovers

Its new 850 million pound stadium runs on carbon neutral gas and 100% renewable energy. Beetroot burgers and tofu katsu curry are available as low-carbon alternatives to meatloaf and beef burgers. They also have waterless urinals, a reusable cup scheme and a “zero to landfill” waste management scheme; All in all, it’s a worthwhile highlight pack.

But can Sunday’s game really be zero?

A 2019 study found that 61 percent of total emissions from Premier League clubs were caused by travel to and from games. Despite excellent public transport links and free shuttle buses on match day, Tottenham still expects 14,250 people to drive to the game.

Sky says it will offset the carbon emissions they cannot reduce. “We won’t know until after the game, but we will work closely with organizations to compensate whatever that figure is,” the announcer told Positive News. Offsetting is seen as a poor substitute for reducing emissions in the first place, but advocates argue that it is better than nothing.

How football is coping with the climate crisis

The majority of Premier League broadcasts come from travel to and from games. Image: Peter Glaser

In Germany, Borussia Mönchengladbach is trying something different: all ticket holders can use public transport for free within a 300 km radius of the stadium.

“Getting people to use public transportation more is a great challenge,” admits the club’s director of corporate social responsibility, Markus Frieben. Having overseen the team’s first carbon footprint assessment, it confirms that fan trips are the highest emissions factor in Mönchengladbach.

Around 37 percent of fans arrive in Mönchengladbach by train or bus, a figure that the club is trying to improve. Eighteen percent still drive to games.

Car-sharing incentives, linked to better or cheaper parking, are being considered as a carbon-reducing measure, but Frieben hopes to go further and is negotiating with German railway companies to expand the capacity of trains in the days party.

How football is coping with the climate crisis

Tottenham’s stadium is considered the greenest in the Premier League. Image: Acabashi

Cycling is a popular alternative and the terrain now has space for 1000 bikes. Many fans also lock their wheels away from the stadium and walk the last mile. For context, Tottenham has 180 bike spaces available this weekend.

However, Mönchengladbach’s most fruitful progress is its work with Germany’s top division, the Bundesliga, which proposes a joint framework for all clubs to cut emissions.

Details are scant, but Frieben says any deal is likely to be based on the The UN Sustainable Development Goals. “The plan is that the clubs choose to make it mandatory for the next few seasons,” he says.

Thom Rawson, the first sustainability director of English football, believes that a binding solution could be the key to success. Employed by the non-league Hanwell Town on a voluntary basis, Rawson has launched a strategy to make the club carbon neutral by 2030, and has already reduced its carbon emissions by 45 percent through measures such as changing the bulbs of the reflectors to LED.

The grass clippings at the Ajax stadium are fed to the goats, which produce cheese for the club. Image: Pmk58

“[Clubs] We need something that gives us clear steps of what to do, “Rawson says,” but also something that has teeth. “He believes that to ensure adherence, any framework must be tied to a team’s operating license, or Similary.

Currently, each club is taking its own approach with some striking results. Manchester City now have edible coffee cups; Liverpool has a new vegetable pie stand at Anfield; and in Italy, Juventus plants 200 trees for every goal they score.

Dutch champions Ajax are looking to go further and have a positive impact on the environment in their field, the Johan Cruijff ArenA.

“Our ambition is to be the most innovative stadium in the world”, He says Henk van Raan, Director of Field Innovation. “We are not focusing on expanding our stadium, which is the norm, but on innovation.”

Spurs, Chelsea and Sky have done something good, they have set the bar somewhere, and surely others will follow.

Having installed more than 4,200 solar panels on the roof of the stadium and connected its power supply to a wind turbine in the nearby town of Oudendijk, the Johan Cruijff ArenA has enough power for matches and sends any excess to the national grid.

Ajax is also embracing the circular economy. The stadium’s energy storage system makes good use of batteries from used Nissan Leaf cars, and grass clippings from the field are fed to local goats, who in turn provide the milk used to make their own. stadium cheese.

Game commentators often bark that soccer is a game of two halves, but when it comes to finding the right tactics to beat the climate emergency, each team will need the backing of their fans.

“The power of soccer is that it has the ability to attract such a large audience in these [types of] messages, ”Rawson says. “[Spurs v Chelsea] it’s a great indication that the soccer league is at least beginning that journey toward serious climate action and a zero soccer industry. “

“Soccer has the ability to attract a large audience to these messages,” says Rawson. Image: Emilio García

New ideas for fan engagement are starting to appear. Competitions like CUP26 pit fans against each other in an attempt to make them change their habits. A team scores a goal every time a fan completes an eco-friendly action, such as eating a meatless meal or enjoying a screen-free night.

At CUP26, Spurs are defeating Chelsea 51-9, a score their fans would love to see this weekend. But ultimately, soccer is still a team sport. “Clubs have the ability to influence and encourage fans,” says Rawson. “I think that’s why the broader social role of football is so important: it’s not just what clubs can do directly … you can’t get to zero net football if the society around you doesn’t it is moving towards net zero as well. It is a challenge that football must face together with the fans ”.

Image: Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. Credit: Alex Motoc



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