RIGHT NOW, climate change is a very topical issue, and rightly so. If the scientists are correct, we may all face some serious issues in the relatively near future, issues that cannot be ignored or dismissed as scaremongering.
Football has to ask itself what role it can play in combating climate change. We are told that there are three things that we most certainly do as a start: ensure we do not waste food; eat less meat like beef and lamb; and travel less by air. Although these three conditions may seem rather trivial, consider the impact on the football industry and the periphery of the game.
But first of all, we should ask how much energy it takes to put a game of football on. For a start, floodlit games must cost an awful lot to stage, cost-wise and in its energy usage. I recall reading a couple of years ago that the home of Arsenal, the Emirates has a battery storage system that can provide enough energy for an entire 90-minute match. Presumably, they are not the only club with this type of facility.
Increasingly, new stadiums are being built with ecology in mind. In Morro da Mineiro, Brazil, a football pitch has been constructed that uses human energy to power its lighting. It cost just US$ 100,000 to create and uses underground kinetic tiles that convert player movement into energy to power the lights. Given this is Brazil, the land of joga bonito, apparently the lights work even better when players apply some typically skilful Brazilian movement!
One of the most high profile club commitments to ecology can be found at Forest Green Rovers, whose New Lawn Stadium not only has the world’s first organic pitch, but also sources its power from 100 solar panels. All rain water is recycled and the catering at the club is 100% Vegan. The club has also announced a plan for a new, completely sustainable stadium.
Lower down the pyramid, Dartford FC’s new ground has caught the imagination of a lot of people. From the outside, Princes Park looks very attractive, with sleek lines and tasteful facades. It doesn’t look like the average bolt-together ground comprising modern corrugation and slabs of concrete. Some thought has clearly gone into it. Furthermore, it is low level, which we are told is aimed at reducing noise and light pollution. And, most strikingly, although I didn’t notice it myself when I visited Dartford, the entire ground has a sedum roof blanket, which, for the uninitiated, is a grass roof. In fact, almost every aspect of the stadium has been built in the name of ecology.
Where there is a large football crowd, there is the potential for pollution, but in some countries, the discarded burger box or drinking cup is a thing of the past. In Japan, after a game, the fans recycle their litter and ensure they don’t leave anything behind. Before a game, “stadium sanitation” rules are displayed on the electronic scoreboard, ranging from rubbish disposal instructions and pleas to respect other spectators’ privacy. It’s typical of the Japanese and their self-discipline.
One thing we should perhaps ask ourselves is whether clubs really need to fly around the world for summer tours and ambassadorial friendlies. We know why they embark on these tours, in order to spread the love among the global franchise and in order to monetise their audience. But if flying is such a toxic pollutant, then surely we should start to ask (as they did in WW2), “is your journey necessary?”.
And if cattle farming and the production of beef is something that needs to be reined in, we could, eventually, see the demise of the dreaded burger. Football, indeed all sporting events, will need to find something else for the staple diet of football fans. The owner of Forest Green Rovers could provide some advice there!
There’s little doubt that we will need to alter the way we live in the future. The world’s resources are becoming scarcer, raw materials are getting consumed at an alarming rate and the weather seems to be becoming more extreme. Sometimes it is difficult to persuade politicians, corporations and governments that we must do something, but a 16 year-old from Sweden made people sit up and take notice. Football, as most popular sport and one of the planet’s most effective people attractors, could really point the way for the rest of the world. The game as a force for good.
This article first appeared in Football Weekends magazine. Reproduced with permission.