Climate change is a massive global issue and threat and football is a contributor to this problem - but, how is the game moving towards a more sustainable future?
We are seeing the effects of climate change at alarming rates. Mass deforestation, melting ice-caps, loss of biodiversity, extreme and unpredictable weather events, and record high temperatures are all consequences that we are facing because of climate change. With 97% of scientists believing that humans are the cause of global warming and climate change, we all have a responsibility to take care of our planet and the sporting world is no exception.
How does football contribute to climate change?
Due to the scale and popularity of football, it is a massive contributor to climate change globally. The global football industry produces more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, around the same amount as the whole country of Slovakia!
Three of the main drivers of this huge carbon footprint are: energy, the transportation, and construction.
1) Energy: One match needs a lot of energy to power stadiums and other facilities. An example of a venue that uses an astonishing amount of energy for one match is Manchester United's Old Trafford, on just one match day the venue can use up to 25,000 kWh of power, which is enough power 10 houses for an entire year!
2) Transportation: On average the Premier League attracts 40,000 stadium goers each game. That is a lot of people travelling from all over England to watch the football, with the majority of people using public transport. Public transport is known to contribute to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions. So with the mass travel of fans, players and staff, you can see the impact that transportation around football has on our planet and climate change.
3) Construction: The construction and maintenance of stadiums and other facilities such as training grounds contribute to climate change. Construction uses lots of energy through the production and transport of materials, leading to a big carbon footprint. Also construction can lead to lots of waste generation which in turn leads to the pollution of our planet.
What action is being taken?
People in the world of football realise the sport contributes to climate change and they are taking steps to diminish the impact the sport has on the planet. Here are 4 examples of where clubs or groups within football have helped to reduce the impacts of climate change:
1) Green Football Weekend - This initiative helps inform fans how they can play their part in tackling climate change. From the 3-5th February 2023, more than 80 of the UK's biggest football teams, charity partners, broadcasters and fans come together to raise awareness of the environmental considerations in putting on matches and encourage behavioural changes to reduce this impact.
2) Meat Free Meals - Having a burger at the football is part of the day out for lots of fans, however consuming these meals has an impact on our planet. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes for greenhouse gas emissions, one Big Mac emits 2.35kg of CO2, which is the same as driving a petrol car 7.88 miles! By offering meat free meals clubs are able to reduce their carbon footprint. An example of this is Forest Green Rovers, in 2019 they became the first club in the world to serve only vegan food to its players, staff and fans.
3) Solar Energy - As mentioned earlier, a single football match uses an astonishing amount of energy, so clubs are putting in place measures to reduce their energy use. One way in which clubs are doing this, is through the use of sustainable energy by installing solar panels. An example of a club using solar energy is Arsenal, they have installed solar panels to generate renewable energy. These produce 750,000 kWh per year, which is enough to power 250 homes!
4) The FA's Sustainability Strategy - The English Football launched a new initiative in 2020 to reduce the environmental impacts of football. They have mapped out a strategy to reduce carbon emissions of the FA and the football industry by 80% by 2025, leading to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. They have six main focus areas to ensure the strategy is executed, including: energy & emissions, waste, water, transport, supply chain, and education & engagement.
What will the future hold?
The world of football recognises the negative impact that football can have on climate change, but they are making steps forward to diminishing that impact and educating the future generation about sustainability.
Representing a massive part of people's lives, English football has the influence and responsibility to make a change. They are heading in the right direction and using the influence to inform a new generation effectively. Football has the ability to raise awareness for the younger generation to fall in love with the beautiful game and sustainability. Currently educating and influencing people on key topics such as racism, sexism and other social issues, football will hopefully further educate a generation on the importance of keeping the game sustainable, and the importance of reducing the impacts of climate change to keep our planet healthy for the future generations.