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Launch of the Football4Climate Fan Club
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Sport and Sustainability International launches Football4Climate, a programme that seeks to leverage the power of football to drive climate awareness and action amongst the wider football industry

On Monday 25 May 2020, Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) launched Football4Climate, a programme that seeks to leverage the power of football to drive climate awareness and action amongst the wider football industry.

A panel discussion, attended by representatives from 20 different countries, discussed the implications of climate change on football with an emphasis on the professional level and the players’ on-field perspectives. Three active professional footballer players, Arianna Criscione (Paris Saint-Germain), Morten Thorsby (Sampdoria) and Sofie Junge Pedersen (Juventus) shared their first- hand experiences training and playing in challenging conditions which can be attributed to climate change. Expanding on these experiences, they offered unique insights about  how these climate change implications and to what level are addressed or not within teams and management and in some cases, how clubs are taking steps towards climate action.

The discussion was moderated by historian and football expert David Goldblatt who introduced the conversation with a summary of his recent research on football’s relationship to climate change.

David Goldblatt:

  • “Football like every other social, economic, culture pho needs to be taking climate change seriously. This is the moment (football pages and sport pages are empty) and sport is in a reflective mood, this great pause, this pandemic has forced us to rethink how sport works, why it matters to us and where we might go in the future.”
  • Climate change is coming to us and indeed, is with us now. Temperature increases, drought, extreme weather, increased precipitation, sea rise levels, land loss. Where will sport be in 2050 in terms of sea rising? In the Netherlands, half of the top division football stadiums will be underwater or regularly flooded. In England, 23 of the 92 stadiums in the English football league will be suffering at the very least from annual partial flooding.”
  • “There is limited research on the size of the global sports carbon footprint. But a conservative estimate, based upon research from the FIFA World Cup, is that global football (at international level) is responsible for 2.5 to 3.0 million tonnes of carbon every single year. Global sports as a whole contributes an estimate of 10 million tonnes. In perspective, this is equivalent to Ethiopia where carbon is burned by families to survive not to play sport. Fan travel to and from matches is the key determinant of carbon levels but also the sportswear industry adds significantly to football’s carbon footprint.”
  • “The UN has committed the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, a declaration that all sporting organisations will commit to carbon neutrality by 2050. Every football club and other sport organisation needs to sign up to this Framework, but we need to tighten up that commitment. We need to de-carbonization in the next ten years (global North and in sport) and we need to be carbon zero by 2030. We can’t wait till 2050.”
  • “Sport has an extraordinary social reach, unlike any other cultural phenomena in this world. We need to make carbon zero the common sense of everyone on this planet. The opportunity to reach this audience and to make climate action the norm of everyday life, is incredibly powerful.”
  • “Sport is good on hope. Sports good at believing that the future can be better, the idea that hard work turns actually into getting better at something. No cause is lost until the final whistle. If the world of sport were to take climate action seriously it would then have the opportunity and good faith, that idea of hope, to rest of the world in dealing with the carbon challenges that face us in the next 10 - 20 years and that is a prize that is worth holding on to.”

In a moderated discussion, players shared their personal experiences and responded to questions from the audience on the need to change their personal lifestyle as players, the opportunity of influencing young players and changing grassroots football, and the reactions they receive when speaking up as football player.

Morten Thorsby:

  • “If we can turn all people involved in sports into climate advocates, then of course also political change can happen. We have to turn this hopelessness into hope. Political changes don’t happen without everyone in their industries pushing to achieve something together.”
  • “I don’t believe football players talking about climate action is politics. This is science. This is transforming the facts we have, not making a political statement.”

Arianna Criscione:

  • “We should not blame people for not speaking up about climate action but it is important to be open and to get people talking about it. If we get people to talking about it, this is where we will see change. Let’s engage as players in the discussion and allow people’s voices to be heard.”
  • “One thing that made me speak up is the amount of plastic we use as a club. Plastic bottles are everywhere. However, the club has banned single-use plastic from the business areas of the club and given every office-worker a coffee cup and reusable bottle to further reduce its plastic footprint.”

Sofie Junge Pedersen:

  • “I have first-hand experience, as ambassador of Common Goals, with the impact an athlete can have on youth in social projects. We should use this and take our responsibility as players to address climate action in grassroots football and educate youth players on this.”
  • “I’m 90% vegan as I know the massive negative impact of the production of meat on the climate. Since I changed my diet, I feel much better and am in better shape than ever before.”

The Football4Climate Fan Club was launched to encourage fans to sign up as climate champions of their favourite football club. Geert Hendriks, Chief Executive Officer Sport and Sustainability International, explains: “Sport represents less than 1% of the world's carbon on largest estimates but 43% of the global population are football fans. The Football4Climate Fan Club gives a massive opportunity to address 99% of the world’s carbon by leveraging the social and economic power of football”

Football4Climate fans pledge to (1) find out and speak with other fans about the climate actions of their favourite club and (2) lead by example through reducing their personal carbon footprint. The website provides fans with an official letter (multiple languages) to be sent to their club as well as a personal carbon calculator.

A ranking of football clubs with the most Football4Climate fans will be published monthly.

More information: www.football4climate.org / #Football4Climate

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