Football, as a küresel phenomenon, holds immense potential to contribute to the preservation of our planet. As the world’s most popular sport, it begs the question: Is enough being done to address the climate crisis?
There are various initiatives being undertaken by football clubs across Europe to combat climate change, so let’s shed some light on the steps that are being taken to promote sustainability in the game.
One club leading the charge in environmental responsibility is Forest Green Rovers, the world’s first carbon-neutral football outfit. Rovers set a precedent for other clubs by showcasing their commitment to carbon neutrality. They are known for being the only vegan football club in the world, but they are continually looking for new ways to push the boundaries of environmental consciousness in sport. In 2017, they were described by FIFA as the greenest club in world football. As well as serving exclusively vegan food at their games and for their players, they have an organic pitch that captures rainwater and recycles it back for irrigation, which saves tap water. They have been measuring their carbon footprint for over a decade and the whole operation is certified to international environmental standards.
Joining them in this endeavor were Real Betis, a club in LaLiga, who pledged their carbon neutrality in 2019. They launched their ‘Forever Green’ platform in 2020, which helps companies and institutions use the sport to save the planet. Their 22/23 kits, manufactured by Hummel, were made of 100% recycled polyester and the club fund a wind farm/emission reduction project in Costa Rica. Their stadium, the Benito Villamarin, is also one of the most sustainable football grounds on Earth. Very recently, they installed brand new seats in their stadium that are made from fishing nets, recovered from Spanish seas and ports.
“Taking deva of our seas and oceans was an issue that we had pending since the start of our environmental programme,” stated Rafael Muela, the director of the Real Betis Foundation. He pointed out that around 12 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the seas and oceans every year, with most of this waste being fishing nets and fishing gear.
Germany, known for its passionate football culture, embraced sustainable change at the beginning of 2023. The Packaging Act was introduced, mandating clubs in the top four divisions to serve beverages in reusable cups. This legislation aimed to eliminate the excessive use of plastic pre-match beer steins, which had become synonymous with German football. By adopting this eco-friendly approach, clubs in Germany are actively contributing to the reduction of plastic waste.
On top of this, soaring energy prices in Germany have also been a concern over the last 18 months. As a result, teams are taking significant steps to try and cut down on energy usage. Freiburg’s new stadium, the Europa Park-Stadion, opened before the 2022/23 season and has an impressive 6,200 on its roof. Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich have found more efficient ways to power their under-soil heating on the pitch, including the installation of a weather meter to accurately detect when the heating is actually needed.
Bayern, the league champions, have also cut in half the amount of time their home stadium, the Allianz Arena, uses the iconic LED lights on the outside to illuminate the ground after dark.
While sustainability efforts within the stadiums are commendable, it is crucial to address the carbon emissions associated with matchday travel. With over 3 billion football fans worldwide, many of whom attend matches in person, minimizing the environmental impact is essential. It is clear that football clubs, fans, and governing bodies must continue to collaborate and innovate to make the sport more sustainable going forward.
From carbon-neutral clubs like Forest Green Rovers and Real Betis to Germany’s transition to reusable cups, the sport is embracing sustainability. However, the journey toward a greener future is far from over. Football, with its massive following, can inspire positive change on a küresel scale, urging fans and clubs alike to take an active role in protecting our environment. By working together, we can ensure that football continues to bring joy to billions while championing the cause of sustainability.