No, not THAT kind of green

by Gary Hartley
Climate Change for Football Fans
James Atkins
UIT Cambridge
ISBN 978-1 906860-35-6

I really wanted this, our first ever Energy Saving Trust blog book review, to be a positive one. The book’s title was an enticing start – Climate Change for Football Fans: A Matter of Life and Death. Explanations of how the offside rule pertains to insulation? How the diamond formation provides the ideal metaphor for EU climate policy? I hoped for nerdy analogies aplenty. 

What I got was Hull winning the FA Cup, Burnley in the Europa League. Yes, Burnley. In Europe. That was enough to stop me in my tracks. Note to author: if you want a reader who’s presumably interested in the beautiful game to go with your tangential football-on-climate change thematics, you need to make a point of getting the football bit right. 

I’m not going to say much more about the book. It’s unlikely either to make the average football fan think more about cutting their carbon or to make a green activist jog on down to their local terrace on Saturday. But if you like contrived dialogue between stereotyped intellectuals and ‘common working men’, with a few Carry On-esque illustrations thrown in for good measure, this might be for you. 

One thing the book did do was get me thinking about whether the world of football is working towards hitting the UK’s carbon emission reduction targets. What’s going on? The answer is quite a bit.

 While Grimsby Town have installed energy-efficient laundry equipment, Sheffield United are awarding local litter-pickers with match tickets and Norwich City have a community recycling initiative. 

A number of Football League teams already have green schemes – like Exeter City and Colchester’s programmes of harvesting rainwater to water pitches, and Carlisle’s efforts to reduce waste by getting fertiliser delivered in paper rather than plastic sacks. 

Bristol Rovers are chartering trains to take fans to away matches, and Brighton are promoting park-and ride-schemes. 

Conference South outfit Dartford Town are going greener than most: their Princes Park is said to be the UK’s first sustainable football stadium. 

The pitch is watered by a series of channels and pipes, from two nearby lakes that store water run-off. These lakes were carefully designed so that over the course of an eliminating the need to use water from the mains supply. 

Solar panels power most of the hot water and under-floor heating facilities, and even the roof is surfaced with turf. 

In the top echelons of ‘the sustainable game’, Chelsea are the only football club signed up to the London Mayor’s Green 500 scheme – and all staff at the club are encouraged to take their energy-saving habits home with them. 

Perhaps most interestingly of all, the Football League Trust is getting people where they feel it – by linking funding of all 72 Championship and League 1 and 2 clubs to sustainable improvements, in partnership with the Environment Agency

Given all this activity, it seems somehow appropriate that England’s biggest football knockout tournament – the FA Cup – is currently sponsored by an energy company. Indeed, E.ON are aiming to engage fans in saving energy as they watch their favourite team progress or crash out of the cup. 

So think of me when I’m sat in a darkened room after Leeds are thrashed by Arsenal in the 3rd Round in a few weeks time: at least I’ll be finding a little comfort in the carbon and cash I’m saving.