The football industry is becoming more global and business-minded, but how does it affect the environment?
The football and climate change is a question that has been asked for a while. Is European football really as green as it claims to be?
A continent-wide Euros, a restructured Champions League, and a new event aimed at expanding the game’s reach.
Is football concerned about doing its part at a time when the world is coming together at COP26 to combat climate change, which may have far-reaching consequences for people and businesses?
While world leaders meet in Paris to try to curb global warming and avert a climate catastrophe, European club football – and its climate effect – continues apace.
Sport has discovered the following:
- The introduction of the Europa Conference League this season raised the number of group matches in Uefa club competitions to 288 in 2021-22, an increase of 20% from the previous season. Despite the Europa League group stage being reduced from 48 to 32 clubs, this is still the case.
- The Champions League will be expanded to 180 group games, up from 96, starting in 2024-25. That’s a rise of 87.5 percent in competitiveness.
- There will be a 55 percent rise in the total number of group matches in major European club tournaments between 2020-21 and 2024-25.
Is it better to be green, or to be greedy? The new Uefa tournament’s effect
The Europa Conference League (ECL) was launched by Uefa in 2018 in order to provide “more matches for more teams and more associations,” according to the governing body of European football. external-link
It didn’t say anything about the boost in income that resulted as a consequence of this.
But what about the environmental cost of this new competition, which expands the game’s reach to more nations than ever before?
In terms of travel, this may be quantified to a great extent.
Only six of the 96 group matches are against clubs separated by less than 500 kilometers. As a result, flights are nearly always the preferred choice for teams (and supporters).
Flying contributes significantly to climate change, with the aviation sector accounting for approximately 5% of global warming and Western nations bearing a disproportionate share of the blame since only about 3% of the world’s population flies regularly.
So, what role does the new tournament play in this? Our results reveal the following:
- 85 percent of group games in the Europa Conference League are against clubs separated by at least 1,000 kilometers.
- In the group stage, each team traveled an average of 5,578 kilometers. It’s almost the same as flying from London to New York. This would result in an average CO2 footprint of 1,087kg per individual traveling throughout the whole group stage (more than one tonne).
- For their group games, nineteen teams (59%) must travel more than 5,000 kilometers in total.
- Fourty-two games (44%) include journeys of 2,000 kilometers or more.
- For each of their away games, eleven clubs (34 percent) must travel more than 1,500 kilometers.
- Kairat of Kazakhstan had the greatest travel mileage of any team, with a total distance of 11,348 kilometers. That’s almost a fourth of the way around the globe. A Kairat supporter who travels to each of their team’s away games leaves a carbon footprint of 2,212kg. For a full year, this is more than half of the global average per person for all activities (4,000kg).
‘We must strike a balance between environmental, economic, and social considerations,’ according to Uefa.
During the summer, Uefa was chastised for the environmental effect of their pan-continental Euro 2020 competition, which was held in 11 nations.
Aleksander Ceferin, the organization’s president, spoke of “bringing the matches to more diverse communities across Europe,” and Uefa defended its environmental impact, citing a lack of construction work for new infrastructure, a goal to reduce and recycle waste, and a “gold-standard” emissions-offsetting program.
Andrew Simms, Rapid Transition Alliance co-ordinator and co-director of New Weather Institute, describes it as “massively problematic” and “lacking in scientific credibility.”
Climate change is described as a “problem that threatens the whole world” on Uefa’s website, which also says that the organization “places a particular focus on encouraging climate action within the framework of its tournaments.”
It is a signatory to the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework, which encourages sports organizations to “show climate leadership.”
However, in addition to worries about the Euros and the growth of club tournaments, five of the last nine Champions League finals have been played at foreign venues by teams from the same country. Climate activists urged Uefa to prioritize the environment in such hosting choices in order to reduce travel, but the organization declined.
Is Uefa following through on its promises?
Michele Uva, Uefa’s head of football social responsibility, told Sport, “Our goal is to minimize our carbon impact.”
“We’re trying to assess the effect, but our first goal will be to minimize each event’s carbon footprint and offset any leftover emissions.”
“It is difficult to eliminate all of our carbon emissions because the teams must play, and they cannot go by bicycle; instead, if the distance is great, they must fly. We can reduce the number of options and determine which is the best option. Germany 2024 [the next men’s Euros] is ideal for us since we have 17 environmental-related events planned. We won’t be able to get to zero [emissions] overnight.”
In December, Uefa will unveil an environmental sustainability plan, according to Uva.
“We’re establishing goals and developing our own Uefa long-term event management system,” he said.
“Eighteen criteria will be applied to each competition, and we will track how long each event can be sustained.” We will pilot this new system in England for the 2022 Women’s Euro, and then implement the whole initiative in Germany in 2024. The next stage will be to implement this method throughout all Uefa tournaments, followed by all domestic matches.
“We have three years [until Euro 2024] to work with clubs to figure out how to save costs.” But we can’t claim we want football if we don’t want supporters to go to see the game, become tourists, and contribute to the economy. This is one of the things we like.
“Fans travel and contribute to carbon emissions, but they also contribute to the economy and society. We must strike a balance between our environmental commitment and our economic and social responsibilities. Those elements must work together to produce a good result.”
When asked whether Uefa’s rhetoric is a form of ‘greenwashing,’ Uva responded: “We have billions of supporters across the globe and a lot of media attention, so we realize we have the potential to be a driver on climate change and lead by example.”
“We want to contribute in some way. It’s not simple, but we’re fully committed to the process.”
Uefa will now be required to put action before words as a signatory to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.
“We’re going beyond commitments to actually come up with measures required in the near and medium term,” said Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, UN Climate Change’s Sports for Climate Action head.
“It will be critical for our signatories to show how they plan to carry out these measures in light of their own operations. We’ve made it plain that in order to keep their signatory status, these organizations will have to publicly report on how they’re following through on their promises.”
Uefa’s activities are “in direct contradiction with any kind of sustainability,” according to the report.
Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu was a standout striker for Wales at Euro 2016 and is now a natural nutrition entrepreneur with a passion for environmental concerns.
He expresses “disappointment, anger, and grief” at Uefa’s decisions, claiming that it was during this tournament that he had the finest moment of his career.
“Uefa is arguably more commercialized today than it has ever been, and it is now essentially being managed as a company,” he said. “Decisions like the ones they’re making demonstrate this. Being a member of the UN sporting framework and making choices that have a detrimental effect on the organization’s footprint are incompatible.
“Climate change is obviously not a priority for them. It’s an intriguing stance to adopt, and one that isn’t likely to fit with a fans-first, planet-first, climate-first mindset. It is incompatible with any kind of long-term sustainability.”
|Date||What exactly did Uefa do?|
|December 2nd, 2018||Introduces the Europa Conference League, which will increase the amount of European club group games by 20%.|
|December 11th, 2018||Signing up to “lower its climate effect” as a founding member of the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.|
|April 19, 2021||Announces plans to extend the Champions League, including a rise of 87.5 percent in group games.|
|May 29, 2021||Ignores requests to transfer the Champions League final to the United Kingdom (the game was relocated from Turkey to Portugal because to Covid), and the Champions League final was moved to Porto despite the presence of two British clubs.|
|11th of June, 2021||Euro 2020 has been postponed in 11 different nations by the hosts.|
|December in the year 2021||It intends to make its environmental sustainability plan public.|
‘For us, it’s like the Champions League,’ say supporters.
The Europa Conference League’s 32 teams had an average Uefa rating of 134 this season. Nine of the teams are not among the top 200 clubs in Europe, according to Uefa.
That is the entire purpose of Uefa.
NS Mura is rated 339th in Europe, has a stadium with a capacity of fewer than 4,000, and has never qualified for a European competition’s group stage.
After winning the Slovenian top flight last season, they qualified for the Champions League, but after losing in that competition and then being defeated in a Europa League play-off, they are now in the Europa Conference League, where they had one of their most memorable moments when they traveled to Tottenham in September.
NS Mura were defeated 5-1 by Tottenham in September, but Ziga Kous’ goal will be regarded as one of the club’s highlights.
“Financially, it’s huge for our team,” Ian Samuel, a Mura supporter who came to Slovenia from England, said. Most European teams have suffered as a result of Covid, but this trip has brought in a lot of money and has elevated us to the world scene.
“It’s a dream come true to play against Tottenham. My Slovenian squad, from a village of 10,000 people, never imagined they’d be facing Tottenham in London.
“I realize that it isn’t the most essential factor for teams like Tottenham. For a team like Mura, though, it’s comparable to the Champions League.”
Dejan, a longtime Mura supporter who was present during the match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, added: “We grew up with one of the Mura team’s players. He was with us on a tiny field in a hamlet of a few hundred people twenty years ago, and today he is playing against Tottenham. This is really unique, and it’s a dream come true for me. Small clubs like Mura can only win and prove to the world that they exist. It’s excellent for tiny clubs.”
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How we came up with the numbers
Based on data from the Air Miles Calculator, travel distances are estimated from the closest airport to the two clubs participating in each game. external-link
Direct flights are used to calculate distances and any references to emissions. Multiple flights may be required for certain trips, which would increase emissions.
Our data is based on every flight that has taken place. It’s conceivable that some may go by road or train, although just three clubs are less than 300 kilometers apart.
BEIS/Defra Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors 2019 were used to compute CO2 emissions.
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