Historically the sport and hospitality sectors have typically had a detrimental effect on the environment, without anyone being able to do much about it, or even attempt to do much about it. People were resigned to the belief that big crowds will drive a big energy spend and usage, with little to be done. Sustainability within sport was deemed an impossible goal, often making environmentally conscious people opposed to sports dominant franchises like the Premier League, The NFL or The Olympic Games. What has followed is an incredible example of micro-sized sports clubs, breaking out of a tired and dated mentality through their pioneering of sustainable sport.
Forest Green Rovers FC are the world’s first Vegan Football Club. Based in Leafy Gloucestershire, their incredible rise from the Ledbury League to the Football League has been followed by their game-changing principals to put the environment first and the football second. From Solar floodlights and lawnmowers to plans of a stadium made of 100% wood, Forest Green Rovers are forcing people to rethink sustainability in Football. Last year two titans of European Football in Bayern Munich and Real Madrid wore shirts made of ocean waste to raise awareness about damage to the world’s seas, while Manchester United have built a nature reserve at their training ground. Schemes like those at Forest Green Rovers force the big boys to react, proving that sustainability in sport is more of a necessity rather than an impossibility.
On an even smaller scale, local sports clubs are also influencing on an international level. When announcing their plan to try and reduce their carbon footprint, Wimbledon cited the Kirkcaldy Squash Club as an inspiration for all racquet clubs to follow. This was thanks to their sustainable development policy, such as all the topsoil being taken from a local construction company who were developing a new church. The All England Club replicated this when preparing courts for 2016 edition of the Championships, another example of small local clubs leading the way for international tournaments! On an even bigger scale, it’s been suggested that the idea to develop the Gold Medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics from recycled mobile phones was adapted from the Open University Student’s Union!
One aspect of the sport that hasn’t changed massively throughout the environmental drive of recent years, is hospitality. Clubs remain open to the idea of adjusting largely invisible factors, like the source of power or how the pitch is laid but largely remain reluctant to adjust the overall ‘fan experience’. While this still represents significant growth from the mentality of old, to see real significant changes this is something clubs will have to sacrifice and as people grow more open-minded to the preservation of the environment hopefully major clubs will begin to follow.
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