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How Green Are Premier League Clubs?

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Extinction Rebellion protests, flooding and wildfires mean environmental issues, climate change and sustainability are right at the top of the world's news agenda.

But what are England's leading football clubs - among the country's most globally recognised brands - doing to help the environment?

BBC Sport has worked with the United Nations-backed Sport Positive Summit, which will host its first conference in 2020, to compile research into the sustainability of all 20 Premier League clubs.

They were asked to provide evidence of schemes in eight categories:

  • clean energy
  • energy efficiency
  • sustainable transport
  • single-use plastic reduction or removal
  • waste management
  • water efficiency
  • plant-based or low-carbon food options
  • communications or engagement

The clubs were awarded one point per category if they had suitable initiatives taking place in their stadiums, training grounds and/or offices and half a point if plans were being developed in that area but were yet to fully materialise.

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Above is a simplified version of the full table - available here - which breaks down every club's score in each category, and highlights their specific schemes and initiatives.

This is the first time all of this information has been made public in one place, and Sport Positive Summit's research is designed as an introductory and accessible resource.

The table will be updated when clubs introduce new schemes or develop existing ones, and Sport Positive Summit sees it as a tool to encourage more action and transparency on sustainability.

Its CEO, Claire Poole, said: "Our ambition by publishing this information is to educate and engage, both football and industry professionals about what top-flight clubs are doing to reduce their environmental impact, and for interested fans to easily access what their club is doing.

"We are all on a journey when it comes to reducing our impact on the environment, and we hope more awareness about these initiatives will help drive increased ambition across football and other sports."

Carbon footprints is the obvious omission.

While the study is a thorough indication of what Premier League clubs are doing to help/promote sustainability, it is not a complete picture of a club's environmental impact.

That would require three stages of assessment to analyse:

1. Emissions generated by the club directly

2. Emissions produced by others as a result of club's activities

3. Emissions from any businesses or activities linked to club's supply chains

That is complicated by the fact Bournemouth and West Ham do not own their own stadiums, and some clubs' involvement in European competition naturally requires more air travel.

Poole said: "An accurate carbon 'bootprint' for each game or an entire season is difficult to credibly record, and will always be up for discussion.

"You would have to accurately account for where spectators, match-day staff, squads and other staff have travelled from and modes of transport used (which would vary every week).

"Then consider food and drink consumed at the game, energy used to power the stadium and broadcast, waste produced and so on.

"That is a massive undertaking alone, but what about the embedded carbon used to build the stadium infrastructure, or to fertilise the turf, or the carbon emissions of fans watching the game at home, at the pub, on their phone or tablet globally?

"Instead we decided to focus on categories that clubs control and that contribute to the overall 'bootprint' of games. Through initiatives like these, environmental impact of games will be reduced - and activity is indicative of a carbon reduction strategy."

Moths, bats - and a minibus car share

Here are some of the more eye-catching schemes at Premier League clubs

Burnley: An informal 'car share scheme' established by the first-team players - Ashley Barnes and Ashley Westwood bought a minibus and share the driving of a pool of players to and from training on a daily basis.

Manchester City: Created wildlife corridors at City Football Academy that are now home to various types of moths, butterflies and bats while also providing nesting places for birds including kestrels.

Norwich: The Carrow Road pitch is watered via a bore hole and the training ground recycles the water from the pitches.

Southampton: St Mary's was the first LED-lit stadium in Europe.

Tottenham: Installed a 'green roof' of flowering sedum plants at its training centre to enable the capture and re-harvesting of rain water across the site.

Manchester United: Say their annual carbon emissions have been reduced by more than 2,000 tonnes - equivalent to emissions produced by 400 homes for a year.

Newcastle: Declared itself the world's first 'carbon positive' club in 2012 - meaning they invest in projects like tree-planting to offset emissions.

West Ham: Operates zero waste-to-landfill status, sending all plastic, cardboard, wood, paper, aluminium, pallets and ink cartridges for recycling and all food waste to an anaerobic digester.

Liverpool: Have no single-use plastic food packaging, instead using trays made out of compostable palm leaf and maize.

Arsenal: Switched to renewable electricity in 2017 and claim to be the first club in Europe to install a battery storage system - which can power the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium for a 90-minute match.

Analysis - Premier League clubs 'dipping their toe'

Professor Mike Berners-Lee, of Lancaster University's Institute for Social Futures, and the author of There is No Planet B:

"Whilst is it great to see Premier League clubs taking steps and whilst there are some good actions here, it is only just scratching the surface and not yet addressing the most important areas.

"On the very positive side, powering stadiums with renewables is a very good thing, as is energy efficiency. It is good to see wildlife encouraged and some plastic reduction.

"I think overall, the measures listed are a start point - but they represent yesterday's approach to carbon management.

"It is now widely understood we are in a climate emergency and the expectation is that all organisations get to grips properly with the big issues that relate to them. The Premier League has dipped its toe in so far."

Berners-Lee identified his five most important areas for clubs to address:

1. Fan travel is something the clubs could really take on, and this is the biggest thing they could do to take the carbon out of football. Public transport, coaches, buses, car share schemes? Are people encouraged to drive sustainably?

2. International travel. This is tricky where there is a busy schedule but there is no getting around the high impact of flying. And I hate to say this but on a long-haul flight, first class has a far higher footprint than economy!

3. Food is around a quarter of the UK's carbon footprint. The most important message clubs can send out is a reduction in meat and dairy and in particular less beef and lamb (the highest carbon meats).

4. Throw-away plastic has to be an issue that clubs could take a strong line on. Are water fountains available? Are all take-away outlets all using non-plastic packaging?

5. Communication and engagement needs to take on the biggest issues relating to the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of football.

Andrew Welfle, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester:

"The clubs are all doing something, with varying degrees of commitment to sustainability. Are clubs talking to each other more to learn from their experiences and to push each other forward?

"There are many items listed for each club - such as Chelsea's 100% recycling at Stamford Bridge and their Cobham training ground - that should be standard practices across the clubs.

"Manchester United being certified to the Carbon Trust Standard for Carbon for its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions over five consecutive periods is highly commendable because having this standard over a long period of time demonstrates continual improvement, with targets and action plans to reduce this further."

hat did some of the clubs say?

Arsenal's operations director Hywel Sloman told BBC Sport: "We should be doing the right thing, acting in the right way and leading.

"Those have been our values since 1886 and those should be our values in all that we do. I think that's really important. There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who look to what we do every single day.

"If we can be an example in this area, I think that's a great thing."

Asked if fans care about sustainability, Sloman said: "I think they do. Our fans want to be proud of Arsenal.

"I also think it's a generational thing. I think every generation is significantly more environmentally aware than that last one - so I think we have a responsibility to our younger fans to actually ensure that we are providing that role model and that leadership for them."

Manchester City's head of sustainability, Peter Bradshaw, said: "Sustainability is important to Manchester City because, first of all, it actually makes good business sense. It's the right thing to do in terms of where this football club came from - the community - 125 years ago.

"It's about how to behave properly, engaging local people - and how thinking about the environment and social values really makes a difference to people's lives in this city.

"The next steps are interesting because there is huge importance and huge focus on climate change in the way we need to operate as a nation, and as communities. The next steps are to to keep looking at these things to make sure that we continue to act responsibly."

In a statement, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy said: "As a club we have always taken our responsibility to care for our environment seriously.

"We have demonstrated this with the environmentally sensitive development of our training centre, where we have preserved historic hedgerows and planted for the future and which will see us adding an Environmental Centre and Nature Reserve there too.

"I am delighted that we have now brought our values to the new stadium to both play our part in the reduction of single-use plastics and raise awareness of the importance of doing so."

A Manchester United spokesperson said the club is "committed to reducing its environmental footprint wherever possible.

"As an indication of this, the club is certified to the Carbon Trust Standard for Carbon which recognises the achievement in managing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"We will continue to look for ways to be a positive influence and encourage sustainable practices."

A Premier League spokesman said: "Progress is being made and clubs are implementing new and more efficient ways of operating - such as reducing single-use plastic in stadia, reviewing suppliers and contractors and looking at energy sources and modes of transport used.

"The Premier League and our clubs play a huge role in communities both locally and globally and so it is important we encourage fans to make everyday changes to create a real difference."

The organisation highlighted its Premier League Primary Stars programme, which helps educate children on plastic pollution.

The spokesman added: "Lots of progress has already been made but there is more to be done and we are committed to raising awareness of sustainability and encouraging positive action."

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50317760

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50 minutes ago, LFCMadLad said:

Christ 9_9

All this environment shite is getting way out of hand now. 

While it's bordering on insane that there are still people willing to shrug of "all this environment shite" as nothing more than that, it is true that even as an entire country we can barely make much of a difference compared to some of the industrial output in the likes of China and Japan, so yeah I get where they're coming from but recycling your paper cups at a football match isn't going to have an impact on the climate crisis.

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1 hour ago, LFCMadLad said:

Christ 9_9

All this environment shite is getting way out of hand now. 

This is why we're all doomed. As long as it doesn't effect your immensely privileged life, eh?

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While I get that everyone needs to be doing their part for the environment can clubs really enforce transportation system improvement without the local government also pushing for cleaner alternatives? I also find that Arsenal stat about renewable energy powering the stadium for 90 minutes very impressive even if other clubs are doing it now. 

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43 minutes ago, RandoEFC said:

While it's bordering on insane that there are still people willing to shrug of "all this environment shite" as nothing more than that, it is true that even as an entire country we can barely make much of a difference compared to some of the industrial output in the likes of China and Japan, so yeah I get where they're coming from but recycling your paper cups at a football match isn't going to have an impact on the climate crisis.

Except that most of those people in those Giant emitting nations are striving to achieve a lifestyle they've seen you lead. 

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6 minutes ago, Harry said:

Except that most of those people in those Giant emitting nations are striving to achieve a lifestyle they've seen you lead. 

That makes it okay then. It's our fault (or rather, the fault of people that I have nothing to do with because they were born decades/centuries before me but they lived in the same part of the world) for doing science faster and evolving into a developed country first, also in a time where people were unaware of the impact of modern living on the environment.

So much wrong with your retort here mate that I don't know where to start.

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50 minutes ago, The Artful Dodger said:

This is why we're all doomed. As long as it doesn't effect your immensely privileged life, eh?

Privileged life? 😅 wow, if only you knew. 

Look, I'm not saying everyone shouldn't do their bit but come on, these people employed to save the environment can take it way too far sometimes.

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8 minutes ago, RandoEFC said:

That makes it okay then. It's our fault (or rather, the fault of people that I have nothing to do with because they were born decades/centuries before me but they lived in the same part of the world) for doing science faster and evolving into a developed country first, also in a time where people were unaware of the impact of modern living on the environment.

So much wrong with your retort here mate that I don't know where to start.

The price to pay of world leadership is disproportionate influence.

More advanced developed countries like UK and Australia embracing those technologies and more sustainable practices will be noticed in those developing countries. That's my point. With any luck those developing nations will make those same sorts of improvements as they develop rather than afterwards once they've forked out exclusively coal power generation. 

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1 minute ago, LFCMadLad said:

Privileged life? 😅 wow, if only you knew. 

Look, I'm not saying everyone shouldn't do their bit but come on, these people employed to save the environment can take it way too far sometimes.

I agree to an extent.

Elimination in single use plastics is a big win, as is fully offsetting your carbon footprint. But Burnley players carpooling to training deserves minimal acclaim at best.

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3 minutes ago, Harry said:

The price to pay of world leadership is disproportionate influence.

More advanced developed countries like UK and Australia embracing those technologies and more sustainable practices will be noticed in those developing countries. That's my point. With any luck those developing nations will make those same sorts of improvements as they develop rather than afterwards once they've forked out exclusively coal power generation. 

There's no time for that though. The information is there. If we carry on doing what we're doing to the planet then disaster will strike in our lifetime. The West have to take a lot of responsibility for leading the world down this route but they didn't know what the consequences were. Now everyone does, the responsibility falls partly on the West to come up with solutions, but equally on the likes of China and Japan who are not only causing the greatest damage to the environment with their economy, but also nowadays have equal, if not more clout to do something about it. What you seemed to be suggesting, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that China and Japan should just be able to say, well you guys sort it out because we're only copying you in the first place.

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9 minutes ago, LFCMadLad said:

Privileged life? 😅 wow, if only you knew. 

Look, I'm not saying everyone shouldn't do their bit but come on, these people employed to save the environment can take it way too far sometimes.

 

I wasn't being personal and am in no position to judge anyone else as I still fail to understand what I should and shouldn't put in the recycling bin, but are any of us willing to sacrifice the relative luxury of our lives to make a change? I don't think we should sneer at environmentalists for banging the drum though, even if it will fail.

 

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1 minute ago, The Artful Dodger said:

 

I wasn't being personal and am in no position to judge anyone else as I still fail to understand what I should and shouldn't put in the recycling bin, but are any of us willing to sacrifice the relative luxury of our lives to make a change? I don't think we should sneer at environmentalists for banging the drum though, even if it will fail.

 

I wasnt sneering to be fair (or I didn't want it to come across like that). Fair enough though mate, I can totally see your side of the debate.

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Pretty sure Norwich are the greenest club in the PL. 

 

50% of their kit is green 

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10 minutes ago, RandoEFC said:

There's no time for that though. The information is there. If we carry on doing what we're doing to the planet then disaster will strike in our lifetime. The West have to take a lot of responsibility for leading the world down this route but they didn't know what the consequences were. Now everyone does, the responsibility falls partly on the West to come up with solutions, but equally on the likes of China and Japan who are not only causing the greatest damage to the environment with their economy, but also nowadays have equal, if not more clout to do something about it. What you seemed to be suggesting, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that China and Japan should just be able to say, well you guys sort it out because we're only copying you in the first place.

No mate definitely not my point at all. More suggesting that the developed nations should lead the way.

Thermal generation is still much cheaper than renewable methods. Its a hard slog to ask developing nations to bear the brunt of increasing their standards of living on the back of much more expensive methods for power generation, but it's one demand you can reasonably make if you're own house is already in order. 

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6 minutes ago, Harry said:

No mate definitely not my point at all. More suggesting that the developed nations should lead the way.

Thermal generation is still much cheaper than renewable methods. Its a hard slog to ask developing nations to bear the brunt of increasing their standards of living on the back of much more expensive methods for power generation, but it's one demand you can reasonably make if you're own house is already in order. 

Isn't the counter-argument there that you don't necessarily need to have your house in order but actually promote lateral growth across both sections? There's nothing stopping the technology from being implemented in both places to cut down the time it would take to get cemented into the infrastructure would it? I suppose the biggest problem there is the politics surrounding how it gets implemented.

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29 minutes ago, RandoEFC said:

There's no time for that though. The information is there. If we carry on doing what we're doing to the planet then disaster will strike in our lifetime. The West have to take a lot of responsibility for leading the world down this route but they didn't know what the consequences were. Now everyone does, the responsibility falls partly on the West to come up with solutions, but equally on the likes of China and Japan who are not only causing the greatest damage to the environment with their economy, but also nowadays have equal, if not more clout to do something about it. What you seemed to be suggesting, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that China and Japan should just be able to say, well you guys sort it out because we're only copying you in the first place.

That's proper exaggerating mate. 

They reckon 1000's, if not hundred of 1000's years before anything bad will happen. 

Certainly not in our lifetime.

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Given the amount of money these clubs take in, I don't see the issue with highlighting what they're doing to help or how they could improve

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1 minute ago, LFCMike said:

Given the amount of money these clubs take in, I don't see the issue with highlighting what they're doing to help or how they could improve

Agreed. It's not like they're bragging about how much they do. More just highlighting that they're trying to do their bit? And some clubs are clearly doing more than others - while those other clubs will be tasked with, or already doing, things to improve.

At least they are doing something - there'd be uproar if they just turned a blind eye to it and thought fuck it. 

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2 hours ago, LFCMadLad said:

That's proper exaggerating mate. 

They reckon 1000's, if not hundred of 1000's years before anything bad will happen. 

Certainly not in our lifetime.

Fair enough, I've done a quick bit of reading and you're right. It still doesn't change how much it matters though.

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I'm not sure where that's from, there's plenty of evidence backed theories which predict serious environmental problems within the next century, if not 50 years. Of course this isn't likely to effect the West directly, it's more likely to see low lying places in Asia deal with even more serious flooding, it's probable that Bangladesh will likely one day be gone. This is probably irreversible now but combined with issues in the rest of the Asia, we are likely to see a migrant movement that will make the Syrian war refugees seem like a grain of sand.

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How green are premier league clubs?

Not very when you’ve got sides flying from Manchester to Liverpool.

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4 hours ago, Dr. Gonzo said:

How green are premier league clubs?

Not very when you’ve got sides flying from Manchester to Liverpool.

They really fly? 

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Just now, Mel81x said:

They really fly? 

Apparently they did last year - no idea if they did this year. Makes me wonder if they've got multiple busses they keep in different cities, or if the bus driver drives out the night before or some shite like that. But clubs flying from the north to London happens all the time - even though it's not really necessary at all. The argument made for it is "it saves time and gives the players more time to rest and prepare" - not sure if I agree with it though because it's ridiculous tbh.

Shite like that might be why so many clubs are quick to point out how green and environmentally friendly they are... because in the grand scheme of things, they're not very environmentally friendly. 

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8 hours ago, LFCMadLad said:

That's proper exaggerating mate. 

They reckon 1000's, if not hundred of 1000's years before anything bad will happen. 

Certainly not in our lifetime.

No mate that's definitely not correct, unless your actually talking the point where it could become an extinction scenario.

Climate change is already an economic problem but it's one that will get worse in our lifetimes, and have major impacts well before 1000 years.

More 1 in 100 year storm events, more droughts, some small, developed islands starting to disappear underwater, limitations to the global food supply etc.

It's changing slowly by our standards but very rapidly compared to the historical baseline pre-humans.

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11 hours ago, Dr. Gonzo said:

Apparently they did last year - no idea if they did this year. Makes me wonder if they've got multiple busses they keep in different cities, or if the bus driver drives out the night before or some shite like that. But clubs flying from the north to London happens all the time - even though it's not really necessary at all. The argument made for it is "it saves time and gives the players more time to rest and prepare" - not sure if I agree with it though because it's ridiculous tbh.

Shite like that might be why so many clubs are quick to point out how green and environmentally friendly they are... because in the grand scheme of things, they're not very environmentally friendly. 

Surely that can't be right, the distance between Manchester airport and Liverpool aiport is 30 miles?

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11 minutes ago, The Artful Dodger said:

Surely that can't be right, the distance between Manchester airport and Liverpool aiport is 30 miles?

That's what I thought. It would literally be miles quicker to go on a coach when considering checking in times, baggage and actual flight times etc. Its about a 45 minute drive.

Sounds bollocks to me.

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4 hours ago, LFCMadLad said:

That's what I thought. It would literally be miles quicker to go on a coach when considering checking in times, baggage and actual flight times etc. Its about a 45 minute drive.

Sounds bollocks to me.

You don’t check in on most private flights 

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