There are billions of sports fans around the world. Each Premier League match attracts an average global audience of 12.3 million people. This year’s Champions League final reached an estimated 380 million football fans. These fans watch and support their team – so what if their team supported sustainability? Sport has the potential to reach and influence a huge audience of people, which means huge potential for delivering environmental messages and promoting behaviour change.
Recently, Gloucestershire-based football club Forest Green Rovers created the UK’s first organic football pitch. Over just three years, the club has eliminated all nitrogen-based fertilisers and chemicals from its ground maintenance. The club now uses plant-derived products on their field, and off the pitch they’re even washing their team kit in phosphate-free washing powder.
Forest Green Rovers are a Conference Premier team, four leagues below the Premier League. Is there any reason that top flight teams can’t make steps to do the same? In New Zealand, a social enterprise called Project Lightfoot is leading the charge by working with community sports teams for free to make environmental improvements, and getting prominent New Zealand sports stars on board to champion the cause.
Compared to the fate of the planet, changes around the kicking, hitting and throwing of balls might seem a bit small. However, sports teams and businesses can use their platform and huge influence to increase awareness of sustainability. Even small changes could get people thinking twice, saving energy, cutting waste and reducing pollution.