A decade ago, the idea of a football club championing environmental sustainability would have seemed like a radical notion. Fast forward to today, and what was once a fringe opinion has become a prevailing trend across English football.
Leading this green revolution is League Two’s Forest Green Rovers, but how does the rest of the Football League stack up?
Sustainable Progress Across the EFL
Dale Vince, owner and chairman of Forest Green Rovers has said that “[i]t’s great to see the extent to which sustainability in football has become a thing, almost but not yet — an accepted part of the game.”
This newfound acceptance is reflected in the creation of the first English Football League (EFL) Sustainability table, developed by Sport Positive and published by BBC Sport. The table assigns weighted points to clubs across 11 critical areas, including energy, transport, plastics, education, and communications.
Key players in the EFL are making strides in these areas, showcasing real progress in integrating sustainability into their core operations. There are those who feel that this method of ranking is biased against bigger clubs though, given that their European commitments inevitably increase their carbon footprint.
Forest Green Rovers: A Model of Sustainability
Forest Green Rovers set the gold standard by securing a perfect score of 24 points in the sustainability rankings. The club’s achievements include powering their stadium with renewable energy, offering an entirely vegan menu for players, staff, and fans, installing electric car charging points, implementing water recycling, employing electric lawnmowers, and maintaining an organic pitch.
This commitment has earned Forest Green Rovers the distinction of being the world’s first UN-certified carbon-neutral football club.
The Power of Leadership
Sport Positive’s CEO, Claire Poole, praised the initiative’s expansion to all 72 EFL clubs, as it highlights outstanding examples of sustainability leadership across the professional football pyramid.
Bristol City, the most sustainable Championship side, stands out for their comprehensive approach. They have not only made strides within their men’s and women’s teams but have also extended their efforts to benefit the local community.
Gavin Marshall, director of Bristol City, said: “We’re pleased to be among the clubs leading change across football. We recognize that we have an impact and are working hard to mitigate that across a number of key areas.” This sentiment is echoed by Peter Smith, Bristol City’s head of change and sustainability.
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The commitment to sustainability is a widespread phenomenon across EFL clubs. Crewe Alexandra is aiming to become carbon negative by installing a substantial solar farm. Millwall is seeking to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. Bristol City has launched “Project Whitebeam,” an initiative focused on minimizing their environmental impact, with a Net Zero target by 2040. Ipswich Town collaborates with Ipswich CAN to combat air pollution and encourages sustainable travel among supporters.
EFL’s Green Clubs Accreditation Scheme
The EFL has instituted its “Green Clubs” accreditation scheme, assessing the environmental credentials of clubs and providing benchmarks, guidance, and advice for change. This highlights the league’s commitment to collective progress and environmental sustainability.
The journey toward environmental sustainability in football has transitioned from a radical notion to a widely embraced principle. EFL clubs are no longer lone voices but powerful advocates for change. Forest Green Rovers set the precedent, but they are far from alone in their dedication to a greener future. Clubs like Bristol City, Crewe Alexandra, Millwall, and Ipswich Town are leading by example, demonstrating that collective efforts can have a significant impact.
As the EFL continues its mission to become environmentally sustainable, the spirit of collaboration and innovation remains steadfast, paving the way for a more sustainable football landscape for generations to come.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: A football pitch. Featured Photo Credit: Negative Space.