In 1879, Arthur Connell set up a soup kitchen and a relief fund for the local and poor. Anna Connell, Arthur’s daughter, also became involved in helping this part of society and believed the creation of male clubs would improve the community spirit. This led to the birth of St. Marks Church football team which was later renamed Manchester City. Many football clubs were formed by local people to help serve their community. However, this ethos has been somewhat lost by the overwhelming desire to win. Although every fan wants success for their clubs, some things mean more than winning. A survey by Supporters Direct showed that fans shared a view that the value they got most from football was almost entirely social in nature. As an experienced environmental consultancy, we know that true environmental success depends on widespread behaviour change and more importantly, teamwork. Football clubs have this in abundance, but this is not tapped into nearly enough.
At times, football does great things for communities but this rarely involves the environment. From travelling fans creating tonnes of waste to the mass energy usage of the stadiums they go to, it is undeniable that clubs have a significantly large environmental impact. Though the sporting world is beginning to acknowledge these impacts, the London 2012 Olympics being a prime example, a number of studies have found football to be lagging behind. Just like the Olympics, football reaches out to the masses and with the Premier League having a worldwide audience of 4.7bn, this alone warrants for environmental action to be taken. The League has the ability to influence not just football, but people right across the world and who’s to say that the all-important ‘teamwork’ to achieve global environmental goals cannot be spearheaded by the sport’s top clubs.
Profit will understandably take priority over CSR but perhaps these two business elements need to be seen more as interlinked components to success instead of viewed separately. Universally recognised standards such as ISO 14001 can often help cut the operational costs of a business as well as creating a positive public image. Although the football industry could do a lot more environmentally, there have been some great examples in recent years. Southampton’s St Mary’s stadium was the first stadium in Europe with LED floodlighting, drastically reducing their running costs. Ipswich encourage fans to take public transport and Liverpool run a scheme that rewards youngsters who pick up litter with match tickets. Having said all this, as a football fan myself I rarely see local supporters cycle to games, but then again, what do clubs do to encourage them?
In 1879, poverty was the issue to be addressed. 136 years later, climate change is at our doorstep and the protection of our local environment should be the priority. Football clubs have a duty to serve their communities by setting an example and mitigating their impacts through getting fans involved. They can reduce costs, comply with legislation, attract investment and look great while doing it. ISO 14001 is designed to fit any business model and if followed correctly, can add real value across the board. It just takes a little teamwork.
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