It’s going green, it’s going green, football’s going green!
The multi-billion pound football industry is in a unique position to promote good causes and needs to start wearing its green credentials on its sleeve.
But according to one group of waste and recycling experts, that’s easier said than done with many major football clubs bottom of the table when it comes to acting responsibly.
In fact, says eco waste collection company divert.co.uk, most people have probably never heard of the world’s greenest football club, even though they play in the English Football League.
“From partnerships with airlines, to kits that exploit foreign workers, too many football clubs pay lip-service to being green,” says Divert.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall.
“And we can see the worst offenders right now, as top clubs jet off for long-haul pre-season tours.”
Come on you greens!
There’s no argument as to who is the world’s greenest football club – they even play in a green strip.
1. Forest Green Rovers – FGR play in England’s League Two, and are based in Gloucestershire. They’ve only been in the league for a few seasons, but they’ve already made a big impact.
The world’s first vegan football club, they’re recognised by both the UN and FIFA as the greenest football team in the world.
Owner Dale Vince – he also owns environmentally friendly energy company Ecotricity – has introduced solar panels at the stadium, a fully organic pitch, and a vegan ethos that bans red meat products from the club.
Even their green-coloured strip is green, made from recycled plastics and coffee grounds. Hard to beat when it comes to green credentials, and a credit to English football.
OK, which club is in second place?
Being green isn’t just for the small-fry. Even the monster Premier League clubs have made commitments to sustainability, and the results might surprise you. And it breaks this Arsenal-supporting press officer’s heart to say that the next on the list is…
2. Tottenham Hotspur – A brand new stadium gave the Spurs the chance to start again, and greener. They’ve popped to the top of the Premier League sustainability chart with a slew of environmental policies that keeps them just ahead of…
3. Arsenal – The club processes its waste on site (fans say this happens on the pitch every match day), and has a space-age battery system that makes the most of green energy.
4. Brighton and Hove Albion – A relatively new out-of-town stadium, where the club is doing its best to use renewable power, locally-sourced refreshments, and slashing single-use plastics.
5. Athletic Bilbao – An unusual European club which literally only buys local, including their players – the Basque club only signs players native to the Basque region. As green credentials go, not signing players from the other side of the planet recalls a long-lost era of local teams for local people.
6. Manchester United – A club this large and this visible needs to be sustainable, and United not only works to improve its green credentials, they go out of their way to teach fans how to reduce waste and increase recycling.
Mark Hall: “Most clubs are now publishing their green policies as they realise that tens of thousands of fans descending on the stadium by car, drinking out of plastic cups, and eating meat-based snacks is very ungreen indeed.
“And the Premier League Sustainability table, now in its third year, is not only making those left behind think twice, it’s also educating fans to act more responsibly.”
Heading for relegation
We’re not about naming and shaming the laggards, and not even the clubs listed above are entirely innocent. Here’s some of the behaviours that football clubs need to stamp out to improve their green credentials:
Unnecessary Travel: Many clubs claim to be green, but then they jet off to the US or the Far East for lucrative pre-season friendlies that only exist to please sponsors. If your favourite club does this, have a word. Even flying to away matches in the UK should be frowned upon. Top tip: Avoid unnecessary foreign travel by getting knocked out of European competition at the earliest possible opportunity. And that leads us to…
Dodgy sponsorship deals: Is your club sponsored by a long-haul airline? Does that airline use its sponsorship to greenwash their credentials? Not naming names, but – frankly – it’s embarrassing.
Sweatshop replica kits: A decades-long blot on the sports industry. The XXXXXXL pie-eater size shirt you’ve bought from the club shop for somewhere north of sixty pounds was probably manufactured for a fraction of the cost in a cramped, dangerous factory by overworked labourers, some of school age. This needs to end.
Players with massive cars: How can your club claim to be green when the star striker turns up in a petrol-guzzling supercar? Be more like England star John Stones, who drives an old Mini to work. Clubs should insist players only appear on club premises if they arrive in a green vehicle.
“Millions of people follow football, and clubs should be setting an example,” says Mark Hall. “They can’t all be like Forest Green, but they can at least try.”