The name is already suggestive and contains the words “forest” and “green”. But it was only in 2010 that Forest Green Rovers, now in English fourth division, began the role that ended up becoming the world’s first professional football club with a carbon-neutral footprint, according to the UN Climate Change Agreement. , And led him to be recognized as the “greenest” in the world by FIFA.
That year, Ecotricity acquired Forest Green Rovers, a company that generates green energy in the United Kingdom. Since then, many measures have been taken: The club’s energy is provided by solar panels on the New Lawn Stadium’s rooftop and windmills, and the lawnmower is also powered by solar energy. There is a recharge point for electric vehicles on New Lawn. The lawn is irrigated with rain collected water. The truck that holds the players’ materials is also electric.
“First, we are working to become an environmentally friendly company on three key points of sustainability: energy, transportation and food. We apply these values and principles to the club, and one day, we read that FIFA considers us the greenest club in the world,” he says. Del Vince, Founder of Ecotricity and President of Forest Green Rovers. According to the manager, the needed investments were small and quickly paying off.
Among the actions cited by the club, one notices: in 2015, Forest Green Rovers became a vegan club. None of the food offered to the athletes and sold to the masses was of animal origin. “It wasn’t a big problem, we explained it to the players as a performance issue. It took us three years to transition to a vegetarian diet: first, we removed red meat, then white meat, then fish and dairy products. We were immersed in medicine, sports and science to help athletes.” Get the best diet possible, “says Vince
There is no evidence of loss of income if a well-followed vegetarian diet: Soccer athletes like Hector Bellerin, from Arsenal, and Alex Morgan, from the Orlando Pride and US team, are vegetarians. In other sports, Venus Willians of tennis, Keri Irving of basketball, Lewis Hamilton of Formula 1, and Nate Diaz of the NFL have also adopted a vegan approach.
Even in the crowd, the idea was accepted. “Some fans didn’t like the idea, and they thought it was a little unusual, but the soccer match takes two hours every two weeks, so why do you expect to always eat what you eat? Why not eat something different? Obstacle: Before the pandemic, food sales in the stadium doubled five Times than it was before the move, it was still important for the club’s publicity and popularity, “says Vince.
The vegan menu offered to fans includes hamburgers, pizzas, soups, fries and even an award-winning pie in a UK national competition in the vegan category. Another interesting point about food is that among the sharing programs that the club offers to the local community and schools, one teaches children how to cook home-made food.
If clubs like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Flamengo have recently worn uniforms made from plastic taken from the sea, Forest Green Rovers have not caught up to them. This isn’t to say the club hasn’t looked for more sustainable materials: For the 2019-20 season, they use kits made from recycled bamboo and polyester from pet bottles. In the current season, the chosen fabric is made of polyester with coffee bean residue.
“Three years ago, clubs were making plastic soccer jerseys, but from a performance point of view it wasn’t good, because the plastic is heating up. So we looked for some better materials to use together and found bamboo, which is renewable and breathable.” Thinking about the improvement, we went behind the coffee, which can be considered more regenerative, because it is made from residual beans, it does not grow for the special purpose of turning the shirts upside down, and it breathes better than bamboo, it is lighter and more durable, ”the manager explains of the choice.
The choice of the green club has succeeded from a marketing point of view: the club has attracted new sponsors and partners linked to the green economy, such as vegetarian food companies. “Our intention is to show that it is possible, that there is another way to do things and that it works,” says Forest Green Rovers head of state. On the field, the club managed to reach the fourth division for the first time in 2016-2017.
The future is in the new stadium – For the future, Forest Green Rovers is planning to leave New Lawn, in Nelsworth, and move to a new 5,000-person stadium, Eco Park, in Stroud, a nearby city, still in Gloucestershire. To that end, the club faces the challenge of building without increasing its carbon footprint.
“We plan to start (construction) in the next two years. Permission has already been granted by the government. It will be made primarily of solid wood, which is perhaps the most sustainable material available. 75% of the stadium’s carbon footprint along its useful time comes from its construction, using materials Like concrete, not the energy that has been used in it for 50 years. We’ll be replicating some of the old things in New Lawn, like the organic field and solar panels. Park “to develop green technology and plant many trees”, Vince Projects. The electric vehicle recharging points will also be in Eco Park, and New Lawn area should be used to build homes.
This season, Forest Green Rovers are fifth in the second league, the fourth division in the Premier League – the top three get direct access and the next four are competing for a playoff in which the champion is promoted as well. For Vince, the current squad is the best in the club’s history, even with the maximum salary entered into the league due to the pandemic, which was made possible by dividing the hiring between data analysis and coach Mark Cooper’s gaze.
Forest Green Rovers are hoping the new stadium will help them reach the Championship, Second Division, a goal set by the club. Despite its knowledge of the difficulty, the Football Association believes that if he reaches this goal, he will begin to dream of reaching the English Premier League, the first division of the English championship, and the richest national competition in the world.