Can football help save the planet?

Nov 26, 2022 | written by:

Calling all football fans! Want to do your bit for the environment, and help make sport a force for good in the world? Us too. So we asked expert Jamie Cornacchia from WePlayGreen, for some advice. 

 “The football community is the largest community on the planet. By using the universal language of football to encourage climate and environmental action, we can put 5 billion people on the same team.”

Jamie, can you tell us a little about WePlayGreen's purpose?

Our job is to support and train a network of engaged professional football players so their messages can kickstart the green chain reaction that mobilises more players, clubs, fans, businesses, and politicians toward making the changes necessary to save ourselves and the planet. 

Why do you think the football community has such potential to influence the climate change movement?

The football community is the largest community on the planet. The latest data supports that there are over 5 billion football fans all over the globe - that's over half of the planet's population! 

Football, similar to climate and environmental crises, is something that transcends geographical, cultural, and social boundaries. By using the universal language of football to encourage climate and environmental action, we can put 5 billion people on the same team. 

With 5 billion people on the same team, the momentum needed to implement the existing planet-saving technologies, policies, laws, and behaviour changes can happen.

As football fans, what practical things can we do to help lessen the sport's impact on the environment?

As mentioned above, football's largest environmental impact is via fan travel. So, carpooling, taking public transport, biking, or walking can make a huge difference in collective carbon emissions. Eating less meat, re-using your football gear and resisting buying fast-football fashion can also make huge positive impacts. 

That said, it is important to make the football industry greener; but it is more important to make the world greener. Football fans make up over half of the world's population; therefore, changing your consumer behaviour, using your vote, spreading the word, and engaging your community about the issues at hand are the best things you can do. This is crucial as the 'Green Shift' is possible, but it is not happening due to a lack of time and support. Football can mobilise the support necessary to make the shift happen in time. 

What challenges face the sport in terms of sustainability?

Football is primarily a business. There are a lot of problematic sponsorships that feed the global football machine, and also have serious impacts on the environment and consumer behaviour. Greenwashing is a closely-related obstacle that sports need to overcome. 

One of football's biggest environmental impacts is through travelling. Fan travel is the biggest culprit; however, professional clubs' domestic travel via plane is often unnecessary. Of course, this problem is closely related to the infrastructure of our modern society; however, this is something that must change in the near future if we are to avoid the worst environmental and climatic consequences, whether it's football related or not. 

Thirdly, there is a lack of climate and environmental engagement. This may seem obvious, but it's a major issue. Climate-engaged politicians and scientists do not reach the majority of the global population; however, football does. Therefore, clubs and players, whether professional or not, miss out on a great opportunity to engage the wider population of people who devotedly listen to them. 

What would you like to see happen next to make football a more sustainable sport?

We would love to see more players use their platforms and talk about these issues. Players' voices reach all over the globe, and making people aware is the first step to addressing and solving the environmental and climate crises. Players are the leaders of the football family, so once players are onboard, clubs, sponsors, and fans, and the rest of the world will surely follow.

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