Ignoring climate change is an own goal for football: 5 ways fans and clubs can help.

Ignoring climate change is an own goal for football: 5 ways fans and clubs can help.
Carlisle's Brunton Park stadium flooded in 2015 due to Storm Desmond

Within the next thirty years, over a quarter of England's ninety two league clubs will be regularly flooded. It's bad news for footie fans: freaky dystopian weather disasters are rapidly becoming the norm.

It won't be coming home if our players don't have pitches to play on.

But don't worry! The largest global governing body in the football world, FIFA, is inspiring football clubs worldwide to roll up their sleeves and tackle climate change, and how exactly are they doing this?

With their super-sustainable decision to hold the world's largest, most popular, and most influential football competition in the country with the highest global carbon footprint (10 times the global average, to be precise), Qatar.

Just to clarify, I was being sarcastic.

Although it might be an overstatement to call football a religion, it's certainly more than just a 'beautiful game'. Football involves 265 million players and 5 million officials worldwide, approximately 4% of the global population.

And yet, in the face of climate catastrophe, football's most powerful governing body decided to opt for easy cash, corruption and greenwashing rather than using their platform to inspire global environmental change. It's more than just a lost opportunity; it's a disastrous decision that...actually, f*ck that line of thought; I don't want to send everyone spiralling into a climate disaster-induced depression.

I won't dwell on the things we have no real power to change (cheers, FIFA). Instead, let's discuss 5 moves that fans and clubs can make to help make football a sustainable sport.  

1. Energy

You don't need to be an energy expert to deduce that modern football stadiums require a f*ckton of energy to operate. From whopping screens to huge floodlights, football stadiums infrastructure makes them immensely power-hungry buildings.

Recent estimates suggest that the average large football stadium eats up to 25,000 KWh during a single match. This equates to the same energy that 8.5 UK homes use in an entire year.

A trailblazing example of what change was when Tottenham Hotspur's stadium hosted the world's first net zero carbon football match in 2021. To pull this off, Hotspurs' stadium was powered by 100% renewable energy resources. As football fans, we need to place pressure on our teams to follow suit and make vital renewable swaps to help curb global greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Infrastructure

Most football teams have an iconic stadium. Which is great until you remember that most of these stadiums were built decades ago when nobody gave a flying football about the climate crisis. Not much we can do about that, sadly.

But, for any teams building new stadiums, I beg them to take Gloucestershire's Forest Green Rovers' stadium, 'The New Lawn', as inspo. As a sustainability nut, my obsession with this stadium is unhealthy, to say the least.

Let me list the stadium's most innovative and inspirational eco-friendly features. Firstly, it boasts the world's first organic football pitch. Bye-bye fertiliser, and instead, say hello to Scottish sea algae and hand-picked weeds (sounds like a spa treatment to me!). Secondly, the stadium is the first to be built with ethically sourced timber, a naturally occurring resource with far lower embodied carbon than its alternatives. And lastly, the stadium relies on 100% renewable resources, and the architects have planted over 500 trees to ensure that the stadium itself is utterly carbon neutral. It's an eco-dream. If this stadium were a person, I'd marry it. But since it's not and that would be weird, I'll urge clubs to follow in its (carbon-neutral) footprints instead.

Gloucestershire's Forest Green Rover's football stadium 'The New Lawn.'

3. Football kit

I know that fashion probably isn't the first thing on a footie fanatic's mind, but what's worn on the pitch can make a huge impact in sustainability.

Modern sport kits are typically manufactured in an energy-intensive process, using plastic as the primary material. As a result, manufacturing a single polyester shirt produces approximately 5.5kg of CO2. Yikes.

It's imperative that football clubs and their fans embrace the tenets of sustainable fashion by refusing to churn out an endless stream of new kits, and by finding sustainable manufacturing alternatives.

UK team Brentford have begun to do this, announcing that they will rewear their current 2021-22 home kit next season. Kings. Another team leading the pack in this regard? You guessed it, the world's most sustainable team: Forest Green Rovers. Since 2019, these sustainable legends have been manufacturing their kit partly from recycled coffee bean waste!

As a footie-watcher, I understand that you can't turn your morning brew into a new fit. But what you can do is refuse to buy into the fashion cycle of the 'never-ending new' when it comes to football kits. Instead, up-cycle your old kit or shop second-hand on platforms such as Vinted and Depop for your sporting fashion fix.

Forest Green's football kit is made from up-cycled coffee waste

4. Transport

Transport and travel accounts for up to 90% of the overall carbon footprint of football clubs. Rethinking transport presents huge opportunities for reducing the overall climate impact of the sport. Offering fans free public transport options, improving electric vehicle charging provisions, and rethinking the teams' modes of national and international transportation are a few of the many things football clubs should be doing to minimise their net carbon output.

As fans, it's important that you consider your own culpability when it comes to travelling to see the games. Ask yourself, do you need to take the car? Fuel's f*cking expensive nowadays anyway, why don't you do the planet AND your wallet a favour by taking the bus or car share. It's not that bad, we promise.

5. Eliminate single-use plastics

This one's so obvious that I don't need to explain it. If you're still buying bottled water, you've missed the memo. Everyone's all about reusable water bottles nowadays, and obviously, thirsty footie players should be too! Clubs like Tottenham Hotspur have already committed to entirely eliminating single-use plastic rotation. Be like Tottenham, everybody. It's 2022. Single-use plastic is so last season.

If properly implemented, these efforts could help unlock the huge potential of English football in curbing global emissions. Our beloved national sport could become a trailblazer in the global push to reach carbon net zero, inspiring other sports, industries and even nations to follow suit.

In the time it takes to play a football match, over 5,000 people globally are displaced from their homes due to climate-related disasters. Let's score a goal for our planet by implementing individual changes and putting pressure on our local football clubs to make the future of football sustainable.