How Can Football Clubs Instigate a Pro-environmental Change Among Supporters?
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Sustainability is the creation of environmentally conscious communities. In recent times, sports have provided a unique and powerful tool to drive environmental issues (Arora, 2018, p.1). At the forefront of all these initiatives is the footballing community. Consequently, football is having positive environmental impacts across the United Kingdom. The Premier League has explicitly moved ahead and established considerable ecological footprints, that have drawn attention not only from the local population but also global (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.1). Several organizations have, therefore, embarked on a mission to address challenges around the physical environment with an emphasis on sustainability (Arora, 2018, p.1). Since the onset of the London Olympics in 2012, most Premier League clubs resorted to implementing measures to curb various aspects of environmental degradation. These issues touch on what ecological impacts needs to address, measures put in place to do so, and potential challenges that may be encountered (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.1). Some of the notable examples include clean energy, energy efficiency, communication and engagements, water efficiency, plant-based or low-carbon food options, sustainable transport, waste management, and single-use plastic reduction or removal (Arora, 2018, p.2). Alongside other organizations such as the United Nations-backed Sports Positive Summit, Premier leagues aim to achieve the set objectives to boost their sustainability. Other clubs have seemingly joined the efforts; a notable example is the Forest Green Rovers, a League Two club (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.2). Therefore, to fully comprehend the whole idea behind sustainability involving UK footballing clubs, we will analyze how they have instigated pro-environmental changes among their supporters.
Sustainability of Premier Leagues Clubs
Premier League clubs have integrated various initiatives to promote environmental preservation. They have been on the frontline to raise awareness not only among their fans but also on the community at large (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.4). Such directives are aimed at ensuring that both parties work in unison to help the nation realize its carbon reduction targets (Naranjo-Gil, 2016, p.359). As a result, most of the clubs in the UK have made both major and minor changes to some of their operations to fit the descriptions mentioned above (Naranjo-Gil, 2016, p.359). These operations touch on their stadiums and the culture surrounding the clubs. Examples of such premier clubs include Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool.
Arsenal’s sustainability approach can be traced back to 2006. This approach began when the club started encouraging their fans to share lifts when traveling to away matches (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.5). Consequently, this was in-line with the club’s sustainability strategies to promote their corporate social responsibilities (Naranjo-Gil, 2016, p.359). After moving to their modern stadium-The Emirates, Arsenal cemented its status as one of the greenest clubs in the UK. The facility has embraced sustainability as its primary objective (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.6). According to its official website- The Emirate Stadium, it encompasses a glass recycle scheme, an oil recycling scheme, a recycling area, waterless urinals, and a cardboard baler, which recycles about 10 tons of cardboard and pant per month (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.8). More significantly, the facility is fitted with a Building Management System (BMS). This system ensures that temperatures in empty rooms are regulated (Naranjo-Gil, 2016, p.359). Additionally, the club has put in place vital measures to ensure that plastic bottles picked during matchdays are recycled, ensured that hot water thermostats are set at a minimum “safety levels,” connected LED lights, and integrated lighting to motion sensors.
Chelsea has also been on the frontline to develop and improve their environmental impact and influence. The club’s intention emanates from their earlier move to be part of the Mayor of London 500 campaign (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.9). It thus acted to reduce carbon emissions, and they were subsequently won the “Sustainability in Sport” award in 2011 because of their low energy solutions. Additionally, the club is striving to achieve green technologies where necessary, to fully comply with European Union Energy Savings Directive (ESOS) (Naranjo-Gil, 2016, p.359). Initiated in 2012, ESOS aims to meet its 20 percent energy saving target in later stages of 2020. Hence, to save energy, Chelsea encouraged its staff to minimize their electrical utilization and printing (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.10). They further implemented the use of energy-saving, motion sensor lighting, use of public transport, and recycling. Interestingly, all papers and bags within the club at their megastores comprise biodegradable materials (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.11). Following in the footsteps of Arsenal, the club has also installed an efficient Building Management System and Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system (Naranjo-Gil, 2016, p.359). Thus, the application of BMS and HVAC are essential in minimizing energy use in the stadium-aiding the club to meet various legislations such as ESOS AND Minimum Energy Efficiency (MEES).
Liverpool is one of the frontier clubs in energy-saving initiatives. This deliberation is based on the fact that since 2013, the club signed a policy to minimize their energy consumption (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.12). In the subsequent year-2014, the club astonishingly reduced their energy consumption by 10 percent. Consequently, they saved electricity and enough gas, which could potentially power about 350 homes annually (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.13). The club also has a team comprising of 10 employees who are mandated explicitly with the sole responsibility of creating awareness on energy savings. The team is referred to as the “Reds Going Green.” Ostensibly, in 2014, Liverpool was named the Merseyside’s Carbon Champion of The Year (Lockwood and Skelton, 2020, par.14). Presented by the Echo Environment Awards, the club was recognized for its efforts in promoting environmental sustainability.
Beyond the Premier League (Forest Green Rovers)
Away from the Premier League, other footballing clubs such as Forest Green Rovers have embraced environmental sustainability. The club is consequently aiming to be entirely carbon neutral. They are embarking on this through advocating for eco-practices, associating with the relevant governing bodies, and working alongside technology providers. The latter practice is aimed at showing that the integration of technology with sports will ultimately improve sustainability approaches in sports (FGR, 202, par.1). Notably, Forest Green Rovers, through their Chairman Dale Vince, are working with Sustainability in Sport to ensure critical environmental initiatives, including organic pitch, installation of PV panels, and LED floodlights are made possible (FGR, 2020, par.4). Moreover, the club is also keen on the provision of meat-free and sustainable menu for football fans. Thus, it is evident that the club is integrating environmental consciousness with football. Table. 1 Shows the impact of the club on sustainability.
Table.1 FGR Impact on Sustainability (Source: www.fgr.co.uk)
2017/18 Emissions (Tons) 2018/19 Emissions (Tons)
Electric 116.7 81.2
Gas 68.5 36.8
Transport Coach 8.1 10.2
Transport Pool Vehicles 32.6 30.9
Total 225.8 159.1
Additionally, Forest Green Rovers currently holds the title of the greenest football club globally. This manifestation result from the fact that it is the first club to be certified carbon neutral by the UN. Consequently, the club is entirely powered by green energy. The energy is obtained from Ecotricity, which is generated by the club from solar panels on the stadium’s roof, and the solar tracker fitted at the entrance (FGR, 2020, par.5). On the pitch, the grass is purely organic, as earlier mentioned, and is free from any herbicides or pesticides. Still, on the grass, the club uses an electric “mow bot” to do the cutting and leveling. It is subsequently cut by a GPS-monitored electric lawnmower, driven by energy harnessed from the sun. The club is also keen on saving water (FGR, 2020, par.6). This strategy is consequently made possible by harvesting rainwater beneath the pitch and using it to irrigate the pitch to avoid using the main water. Finally, the club provides EV charge points from the Electric Highway. This approach is aimed at promoting sustainable travel to all fans who use electric vehicles (FGR, 2020, par.7). Thus, Forest Green Rovers supports environmental sustainability.
Fans Behaviors Towards the Environment
The UK Premier League fanbase has contributed immensely towards sustainability. Some of the ways have manifested through the growing awareness and formulation of tangible benefits by supporters (Finch, 2020, par.2). The message has been growing as fans get involved in some of the practices, such as embracing sustainable transport and plastic reduction practices during match days. According to Akhil Vyas, board member of the Arsenal Supporters Trust, “there is increasing consciousness that is gradually making its way into football.” (Finch, 2020, par.4) He further notes that, as fans, they are ready to support the clubs in whatever ways to achieve clean energy, water efficiency, and plant-based based food options. Moreover, John Fawell, the chairman of the Watford Supporter club, also agrees that there is a gradual change towards environment responsiveness from football fans (Finch, 2020, par.7). However, he points out that clubs with bigger revenues and bigger budgets are better positioned to implement sustainability in comparison to small clubs. Hence, as a member of a small football club, he believes fans will be driving force towards environmental sustainability. It will thus be vital to witness fans using alternative transport options-for example; the rail industry should offer people cheaper and advanced transport (Finch, 2020, par.10). In turn, this will ensure that there are fewer vehicles on the road during matchdays, thus minimizing carbon emission. Therefore, we can agree that fans are showing positive signs of contributing to sustainability.
In summary, we can agree that sustainability provides unmeasurable advantages not only for sports but also globally. At the forefront of all these initiatives is the footballing community. It is having positive environmental impacts across the United Kingdom. Premier League clubs have integrated various initiatives to promote ecological preservation. Such directives are aimed at ensuring that both parties work in unison to help the nation realize its carbon reduction targets. For example, a club like Arsenal has installed a glass recycle scheme, oil recycling scheme, recycling area, and waterless urinals to enhance environmental sustainability. Moreover, the message has been magnified by football fans who have contributed immensely towards sustainability. Some of the ways have manifested through the growing awareness and formulation of tangible benefits by supporters.
Arora, N. (2018). Environmental sustainability—necessary for survival. Environmental Sustainability, 1(1), pp.1-2.
FGR (2020). Greening up football. [online] Fgr.co.uk. Available at: https://www.fgr.co.uk/our-ethos/greening-up-football [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].
Finch, C. (2020). Are football fans beginning to expect high environmental standards from their clubs? – Sustainability Report. [online] Sustainabilityreport.com. Available at: https://sustainabilityreport.com/2019/11/21/are-football-fans-beginning-to-expect-high-environmental-standards-from-their-clubs/ [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].
Lockwood, D., and Skelton, J. (2020). How green are Premier League clubs?. [online] BBC Sport. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/50317760 [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].
Naranjo-Gil, D. (2016). The Role of Management Control Systems and Top Teams in Implementing Environmental Sustainability Policies. Sustainability, 8(4), p.359.