With the intensifying urgency of climate change, industries across the globe are being challenged to re-evaluate their practices and take definitive steps towards sustainability. The football world is no exception. As the most-watched football league globally, the Premier League is under the spotlight. Are the giants of English football stepping up to the plate, or are they leaving the charge to their smaller counterparts?
This article delves into the sustainability initiatives of various Premier League clubs and evaluates whether these football powerhouses are doing enough to combat climate change.
1. The Intersection of Football and Climate Change
Football and environmental sustainability may seem like distant cousins, but the climate crisis has a direct bearing on the sport. With predictions that around a quarter of England’s 92 league football clubs could face regular flooding within the next few decades, and the average grassroots pitch in England already losing five weeks a season to adverse weather, the game is under threat.
Sport is also a significant contributor to climate change, with a global carbon footprint estimated to match Tunisia’s size. This calls for a complete reassessment of football’s environmental impact and a unified international response.
2. The Premier League’s Greenest Clubs
In the Premier League, some clubs are making commendable strides towards sustainability. Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have taken the lead, both earning top spots in the Sport Positive Environmental Sustainability League. This independent environmental sustainability table assesses all top-flight clubs based on their environmental practices.
Tottenham’s players travel to matches on biofuel-powered coaches, drastically reducing their travel emissions5. Liverpool, meanwhile, has pledged to decarbonise fuel through the use of sustainable aviation fuel, anticipated to cut emissions by 80%.
3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Climate-friendly initiatives by Premier League clubs range from installing electric vehicle charging points and recycling rainwater to achieving 100% renewable energy use and banning single-use plastics7.
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, along with Arsenal and Southampton, have signed up to the United Nations’ Sports for Climate Action framework, committing to cut emissions by half by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2040. This is a significant step, but the question remains: are the big clubs doing enough, or is this just a drop in the ocean?
4. The Role of Fans and Players
The involvement of fans and players in sustainability initiatives is crucial. As Liverpool’s CEO Billy Hogan points out, the club has an outsized impact on a global basis due to its fanbase and player profiles.
Engaging players and fans in sustainability initiatives not only boosts their reach but also fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility towards the planet. It’s a win-win strategy – for the clubs and the environment.
5. Forest Green Rovers: Setting the Green Standard
While Premier League clubs grapple with sustainability, one small club is leading the way. Forest Green Rovers, a League Two club, have been named the world’s first carbon-neutral football club.
They’ve implemented a host of green initiatives, from powering their stadium with renewable energy and maintaining an organic pitch to serving only vegan food and recycling rainwater. Their progressive approach is setting a high standard for other clubs, big and small, to follow.
6. The Financial Impact of Climate Change on Football
The financial risk that climate change poses to English football is significant. Carlisle United, for instance, were forced to abandon their stadium for seven weeks after Storm Desmond, costing them almost £3m.
However, environmental sustainability in football also presents an opportunity. Clubs can cut costs by eliminating energy inefficiencies and upgrading to environmentally sustainable infrastructure. They can also attract unique sponsors and income sources through their green initiatives.
7. Premier League Clubs’ Sustainability Scores
The Premier League clubs’ sustainability scores, released by the United Nations-backed Sport Positive Summit, assess the sustainability of all 20 Premier League clubs.
The clubs are evaluated based on eight categories: clean energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, single-use plastic reduction or removal, waste management, water efficiency, plant-based/low carbon food, and communications and engagement on sustainability.
8. The Need for Regulatory Action
While some clubs are making strides towards sustainability, the lack of action by others is alarming. Achieving sustainability in football should not be left to individual clubs’ discretion – it should be an obligation.
The government could play a more significant role in enforcing environmental sustainability in football. For instance, they could make it mandatory for clubs to develop environmental sustainability action plans and have these supervised by an independent football regulator.
9. The Power of Football in the Fight Against Climate Change
The influence of football in the fight against climate change cannot be underestimated. As the most popular sport globally, football has a unique platform to drive change. By integrating sustainability into their operations and promoting green initiatives among fans and communities, football clubs can make a significant impact on the fight against climate change.
10. The Future: A Greener Game
While the journey towards a sustainable football industry is only just beginning, the initiatives taken by some Premier League clubs are encouraging. The challenge now lies in ensuring that all clubs, big or small, embrace sustainability as a core value.
Football has a unique opportunity to lead the way in the fight against climate change. By embracing sustainability, clubs can not only safeguard the future of the game but also contribute to a greener, healthier planet for everyone.
The clock is ticking. It’s time for football to go green.