The crowd and players stayed away to insulate their lofts


By Dan O’Sullivan

Football’s rubbish. The players earn too much, you’d need a lottery win under your belt to afford a Premiership season ticket, and you can win games more or less without touching the ball. Yet, following on from our two previous pieces on green energy in football, more has emerged to suggest that all is not lost; renewable technology could well be the sport’s saving grace.

Of course, we’ve been here before – we’ve done football and climate change twice already on this here blog. But now there’s new fuel firing the debate – pardon the energy metaphor.

The Environment Agency recently published its first Energy Efficiency Performance League Table, ranking businesses and organisations in terms of how they manage their energy use, as well as the steps they have taken to reduce their carbon emissions. Out of 2,000 organisations, 22 are ranked joint first, with one of these places occupied by none other than Manchester United and their energy efficient lighting.

Whilst many would hope that this is the only table United will come anywhere near topping again in the next millennium, this shows a clear indication that genuinely big clubs are recognising the benefits of green energy.

However, not all teams have been quite as successful in their efforts to clean up their carbon act. Manchester City are deemed to be the Premier League’s worst culprit, although they cannot be accused of not making the effort. Planning permission for a 360ft wind turbine to power their floodlights was recently declined, as reasonable fears that icicles could drop from the blades and impale unsuspecting members of the public prevailed. Given that City fans may now face the task of dodging fireworks that Mario Balotelli could be launching from God-knows where, icicles would seem the least of their problems, yet other factors can explain their poor performance in the green stakes.

It is the fact that City’s owners derive much of their fortune from barrels and barrels of oil – that ranks them so low in environmental and social tables, and this is an aspect that inhibits many other Premiership clubs. Either way, forgetting where chairmen make their billions and gazillions of pounds, there’s some will to improve.   

Seeing as we’re not running an episode of MOTD here, we can also focus on the smaller sides. Clevedon Town of the Evo Stik League Southern – a level only slightly higher in the tiers of English football than the Croydon Pub’s Sunday Division – are looking at having their floodlights powered by solar panels.

Whilst the stadium probably has a lower capacity than a London bus, the intention is there – cutting emissions and saving money by looking to renewable technology. If everyone were to follow suit, stadiums up and down the country could have a significant impact on reducing carbon output and increasing the uptake of renewable resources. Perhaps the lower league teams can point the way whilst shaming the big boys.  

Football remains an area of genuine potential when it comes to tackling our carbon footprint – not only do stadiums consume energy, but the hundreds of thousands of fans getting to and from matches every weekend do the same. When half of Surrey empties to make its way to Old Trafford via the M40 and M6 on a Saturday afternoon, a steaming trail of carbon emissions follows the red conga line up to Manchester, and is probably still hanging around as it makes its way back. By opting for the train rather than the family car on match day, we can all do our bit too.

Given the above, the football lovers of the nation can make a genuine difference to carbon emissions through subtle changes – and clubs are clearly trying to do the same. The possibility of a growing presence of green technology in and around stadiums now seems real, and can only serve to send a positive message when it comes to promoting a cleaner, renewable future.