Sustainability in English Football: Kicking Off The Conversation.

Sustainability in English Football: Kicking Off The Conversation.

It’s time to give the science the respect it deserves. Climate change is set to be the defining issue of our generation, and the future of football is going to be affected too. This is a game we can’t afford to lose. By Amos Pakpahan and Elliot Arthur-Worsop for Football For Future.
Sustainability in English Football: Kicking Off The Conversation.
Photo: footballforfuture.org

By Amos Pakpahan and Elliot Arthur-Worsop for Football For Future.

The overwhelming consensus from across the scientific community is that sustainable change is necessary if we are going to avoid irreversible damage to our planet. Science aside, most of the British public want to see sustainable change. Despite this, we continue to accelerate in the opposite direction.

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Photo: IMAGO / PA Images
IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images

Football and the Environment

From rained-off Sunday league matches to ‘carbon neutral’ World Cups, the relationship between football and the environment is becoming clear to see. The football industry has a massive impact on our environment, and in turn, our changing climate is increasingly affecting the game.

With warming temperatures, the UK can expect to see even more unpredictable and extreme weather events. Of these, the most immediately disruptive to English football will be greater rainfall and flooding, as well as more intense storms.

Let’s look at some key stats:

  • 25% of English Football League stadiums are at risk of annual flooding by 2050 due to sea-level rise and extreme weather events caused by climate change. See here.
  • Grassroots football in the UK already loses over one month of action every season due to bad weather. This is set to get worse. See here.
  • The global football industry emits about thirty million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year (about the same as a small nation such as Denmark or Tunisia).
IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images
IMAGO / Shutterstock
Photo: IMAGO / Shutterstock

“I’ve noticed that the kids aren’t able to play as many matches per season as they were when I first got involved with the club over a decade ago”

Manager of grassroot club Bromley Heath.

IMAGO / Belga
Photo: IMAGO / Belga

Beyond the game, climate change poses a real threat to livelihoods all over the world. Evidence shows that if we don’t work together to tackle this issue, we are on track for record-breaking temperatures, water shortages, crop failures, and subsequent refugee crises this century. These facts alone suggest that things cannot continue the way they are.

It is clearer than ever that football can help itself and the planet by embracing sustainable operations, as they become not only inevitable, but increasingly desirable for fans around the world.

IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images

Why Football?

Football is more than just a game.

In an often-divided world, football – which evolved on the streets of Britain – brings people together across borders, genders, religions, age groups, and socioeconomic divides in a way that little else does.

No other event on the planet draws a greater audience than FIFA World Cups, with the last two tournaments notching up more than three billion spectators each. All eyes are on us.

And the beautiful game exists far beyond just 90-minutes on the pitch. Football culture flows from the stadium to the street, through kitchens and corridors, pubs and playgrounds, creating trends, communities and conversations across countries and continents.

Organisations such as Football Beyond Borders, Common Goal, Kick It Out or Marcus Rashford’s recent Free School Meal campaign are all brilliant examples of the positive impact that football can have off the pitch. And fans love to see it. Regardless of who we support, the football community is proud of what we can achieve.

IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images
IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images
IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images

Getting the Ball Rolling…

To kick off some necessary sustainable action, a good place to start is with the commercial operations of the game.

Cutting back on single-use-plastics, increasing renewable energy provision, improving public transport options, and signing up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework are a few easily achievable actions that can help to make our national sport more environmentally friendly. We expect to see, and support, a wave of such action across English football in the near future.

On another positive note, we’re beginning to see promising signs of environmental advocacy from significant individuals and organisations across the football community. Some pioneering cases include:

These are just a few examples, but plenty more is happening, and it’s a safe bet to put your money on more of the same coming soon. Rest assured, at Football For Future we’ll be reporting on all of this, so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for the big stories across our blogs and social media.

IMAGO / MB Media Solutions
Photo: IMAGO / MB Media Solutions
IMAGO / Pro Sports Images
Photo: IMAGO / Pro Sports Images

Fergie Time

All the data points to the same conclusion: we are deep into Fergie Time. It’s time to switch up our tactics, start the conversation and, more importantly, bring meaningful sustainable action into the game we love. We are all key players.

What makes football so unique is that it generates a special type of hope: that no cause is lost until the final whistle. We all have an important position to play in shaping the future of the game, and by working as a team we can make great things happen. 

Although the dangers of climate change are rightly cause for concern, it looks like English football might just provide the spark to ignite a late comeback. If Leicester could win the 2015-16 Premier League, we definitely stand a chance of pulling this one out the bag.

We’re all on the same team for this one. 

IMAGO / Mary Evans
Photo: IMAGO / Mary Evans

By Amos Pakpahan and Elliot Arthur-Worsop for Football For Future.

A Final Word

Football For Future is a new, pioneering environmental advocacy football organisation kicking off the important conversation of meaningful sustainability in the game. They are by the football community, for the football community. While they are underpinned by peer-reviewed environmental science, they are equally invested in championing the very best of football culture.

You can see more of their work and read the original article on their blog here.

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