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Football and environmental sustainability

Whilst the size of football pitches is often used to show the environmental sustainability of land use, e.g. new forests are created at the equivalent of 1.5 million football pitches a year, little attention is paid to the sustainability of the beautiful game itself.

The FA and sustainability

After the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium, the FA implemented an Environmental Management System (EMS) to improve its green credentials in terms of energy, waste, water, transport and procurement.

The FA see it as their “duty to demonstrate leadership in the field of event sustainability management” and have integrated it into its core business strategy. Staff are not only trained in sustainability management, but they also receive incentives to meet their objectives.

Wembley Stadium has more than two million visitors a year, but manages to sustain a ‘zero waste to landfill’ policy. The majority of waste is mixed recycling, and food waste is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant. The remainder is sent to a ‘waste to energy’ facility. As far back as 2013, the Stadium achieved the Carbon Trust Waste Standard for its work reducing the carbon emissions associated with waste management.

What the clubs are doing

Arsenal has just become the first Premier League club to use 100% renewable energy for its 60,000 seater stadium. After a year-long trial in which the club managed to reduce its carbon emissions by 2.32 million kg, it has signed a contract to use power derived solely from solar panels and food waste.

Manchester United have also invested a lot in environmental sustainability, with various initiatives including ‘Reds Go Green’, which promotes responsible waste management and recycling. The club is active in taking the eco message out to local schools, and has also encouraged resource efficiency with suppliers, saving them around £500,000 over the last five years.

Meanwhile, the less well known Forest Green Rovers, whose chairman is the CEO of green energy company Ecotricity, is now aiming to become the most sustainable football club in the world. Newly promoted to the Football League, the club has huge ambitions to take the green message even further in the Championships and has already designed its new ‘Eco Park’ stadium.