Green Initiatives in Football Stadiums

Green is the colour: exploring environmental initiatives in football stadiums

 

You don’t need to be an energy consultant to know that modern sports venues are fairly power-hungry buildings. Even a cursory look at the layout of a typical stadium would be enough to suggest that the monthly electricity bill might be a touch on the high side – particularly now, with energy prices skyrocketing as a result of increased demand and global uncertainty.

From sports lighting and scoreboards to behind-the-scenes facilities like catering and broadcast, even an average sized stadium now burns through a lot of power. That’s particularly true in the case of football stadiums, which tend to be both some of the largest sporting venues and amongst the most frequently used. Some estimates suggest that a large football stadium uses as much as 25,000 KWh during a single 90 minute match – the same amount as eight and a half UK homes do in an entire year .

As much as that has an implication in terms of cost, there is of course another very critical issue at play here: sustainability. Expensive though it might be to power a stadium over the course of a game, the long-term cost to the planet is even greater still. It’s with that concern in mind that a growing number of clubs have been introducing green initiatives designed to reduce – or at least mitigate – the amount of power that their venues use.

In this post, I’d like to highlight some of the most noteworthy green initiatives in football stadiums around the world – including some smart approaches to sports lighting and power.

 

Chelsea take the points, but it’s Game Zero that matters at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

 

Local derbies are always heated affairs, particularly when the teams involved are competing for one of the coveted Champions League spots. While passions may have been running high on the pitch during Tottenham and Chelsea’s clash last year though, the environmental cost of the game on was at a record-setting low.

On Sunday 19th September 2021, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosted “Game Zero” – the world’s first net zero carbon elite football match. As is now common in many carbon neutral (and carbon negative) strategies, that result was achieved by first lowering emissions as much as possible, and then offsetting anything that couldn’t be eliminated in its entirety.

In practice, this involved a number of smaller initiatives coming together at once. Players arrived on green biodiesel-powered coaches, fans were encouraged to walk or travel using electric or hybrid vehicles, and all facilities at the stadium – including the sports lighting – were powered by 100% renewable energy. Chelsea may have run out as 3-0 winners on the day, but the long-term legacy of this game is likely to be remembered for very different reasons.

 
Green Initiatives in Football Stadiums - Game Zero
 

Forest Green Rovers pitch a different future for football

 

From the top of the table to the lowest division in the English League – though there’s little doubt that Gloucestershire’s Forest Green Rovers (FGR) could teach some of their higher flying counterparts a few things about sustainability. In 2017, governing body FIFA recognised FGR as “the greenest club in the world”, and it’s easy to see why.

For starters, while Game Zero may have seen renewable energy used for one specific match, FGR’s New Lawn stadium runs on it full time. The club uses 100% green energy (some of which is generated from solar panels installed on the stadium’s roof), its pitch is treated entirely organically, and the grass is even cut using a solar-powered lawnmower. “Another way” indeed.

 

Ajax challenge the status quo at the Johan Cruijff Arena

 

On the pitch, Johan Cruijff was known for inventing the eponymous “Cruijff Turn” – a twisting manoeuvre that left his rivals in his wake. It’s only fitting, then, that the stadium that carries the Dutch legend’s name is now recognised for its similarly revolutionary qualities.

Proving that solar panels aren’t just for the likes of Forest Green, Ajax’s Johan Cruijff Arena employs 4,200 of the devices around almost the whole of the stadium’s roof. What’s more, the club has created a storage system that includes hundreds of new and recycled Electric Vehicle batteries – meaning that it not only has backup power in the event of an outage but that it can actually supply energy back to the Netherlands’ national grid in times of high demand.

Of course, it would be remiss of us not to mention that the ArenA also uses a highly efficient LED sports lighting solution, as well as an accompanying, grow lighting rig that helps to keep the pitch in peak condition.

 

Betis and Athletic go all in for Forever Green

 

Let’s finish off with one of the most recent examples of sustainability in action. In an effort to raise awareness of the club’s ongoing Forever Green initiative, Real Betis’ match against Athletic Club last month served as a scintillating showcase of sustainable sport.

First up was a change to the club’s first-team kit, with a revamped design made using 100% recycled polyester. This is no token gesture or PR stunt, either; Betis’ has actually made the shirt available for sale in the club shop. Joining it are a set of Forever Green trainers (or sneakers), made entirely from sustainable and recycled materials.

For the game itself, the club arranged a series of discount offers with electric bike company Lime, as well as electric scooter firms Acciona and Voi, all in a bid to encourage environmentally-friendly travel. Those who opted to travel using their own e-bike or scooter were given their own designated parking space as a reward.

On the pitch, players drank from recycled water bottles, while watching fans were able to grab their halftime snacks in biodegradable bowls, before dropping them into recycling bins for their eventual transformation into fertiliser. With one Euro from every ticket sale donated to a reforestation project, the club also made a commitment to offsetting the carbon emissions from the game.

For Betis, green clearly means much more than just the colour on their shirts.

 
 

Can we realistically expect every match to live up to the amazing example set during the game between Betis and Athletic? Maybe not, but the great stories above do at least give me hope that we’re headed in the right direction.

If you’re interested in maximising the sustainability of your own stadium, you should know that an LED sports lighting solution can have a dramatic impact on reducing the amount of energy that you use. Find out more here, take a look through some of our case studies, and get in touch.

 

 

 

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