Forest Green Rovers Are the Best Club in the World – Just Not on the Pitch

Forest Green Rovers from the English 4th division have 100% green energy, are completely vegan, have an organic pitch and soon a stadium designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid.

When it comes to sustainability, few clubs around the globe can compare with little Forest Green Rovers from Nailsworth, England. As the first vegan club worldwide, the only carbon neutral one and – according to the FIFA – the greenest club in the world, they really set the tone in terms of a club structure, which is environmentally sustainable. And surely the whole ecosystem could learn from the old yet so progressive club.

Sustainability concerns everyone

The Forest Green Rovers are certainly not the only football club that is trying to do more for the environment. Leicester City for example have just announced their partnership with Bakers Waste. Together they want to work on the Pass on Plastic campaign to reduce single-use plastic. Leicester City’s Operations Direcor Kevin Barclay commented:

We are thrilled to announce Bakers Waste as our new Official Waste Partner. It’s one of a number of steps the Club is taking to improve its waste processes in order to help protect the environment. Leicester City Football Club is committed to recycling and reducing the amount of plastic it uses – aims which this partnership will only enhance.

German cult club FC St. Pauli on the other side are engaging with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for their merchandising products. This means they will use biologically made natural fiber for their scarves or shirts in the shop. Over time, every product with the famed skull on it shall live up to those standards.

FC St. Pauli want to make fair merchandising articles, © FC St. Pauli

Speaking of skulls, Forest Green Rovers have their very own on their kits, thanks to a partnership with the international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organisation Sea Shepherd.

Both parties, FGR and Sea Shepherd, try to make the world a better plae. In fact, there’s no club quite like Forest Green Rovers. They are the greenest football club in the world, as the FIFA have confirmed.

Vegan, true to green energy and in line with nature

The Forest Green Rovers stay true to their name. Founded in 1889, they’ve only recently reached the heights of professional football in Englands League Two, the fourth tier. Yet they’re known to a wider audience for their engagement off the pitch. Winning awards like the Green Heart Hero Sustainability in Sport Award in 2018 and the Green Transport Project of the Year in 2013, for installing electric vehicles at the club, they have become a pioneer in the football ecosystem when it comes to holistic sustainable operations.

FGR chairman Dale Vince said in a UN-produced video:

We’ve become the first club in the world to become climate neutral according to the UN […] Sport looks to be a great vehicle to carry the sustainability message.

Their majority owner and principle partner ist Ecotricity, a company that provides green energy with their modern windmill park (they don’t call them turbines). Another partner is Grundon, a waste company trying to help FGR recycling 100 per cent of their waste. Add Quorn to those partners: they were the architects behind FGR’s rise to become the very first full-vegan club around. Players, staff and even fans can only enjoy vegan food and drinks at the club’s venues. But that makes for a healthier experience, does help the planet in the Long term and can even optimise performances.

Veggie Burger, served at The New Lawn, © Forest Green Rovers

In order to keep the environment around the club areas clean, Forest Green Rovers also provide charging points for electric vehicles; as they try to get more visitors travelling in a sustainable way.

Even their own lawn-mower, GPS-directed, is powered by energy harnessed from the sun. And it’s only mowing pitches that are fully organic, free from pesticides and herbicides. Adidionally, rain water is saved beneath the main pitch to re-use it for further irrigation. An example of FGR’s success in strengthening sustainability at the club is the emission value. Total emissions were at about 5 tonnes in 2015/16, but only at 2,49 tonnes in 2017/18.

In their Environmental Policy the club states:

Our aim is to make FGR a place where we can demonstrate eco thinking and technology to a new audience – football fans. Indeed, we believe that we have the opportunity to introduce sustainability to the wider world of sport, not just football. We know that a football club has an impact on the environment, so we’ve implemented an Environmental Management System to measure those impacts and target them for reduction. Within our Environmental Management System, we’ve set ourselves ambitious targets to continually improve performance, significantly reduce pollution made by all areas of the club, and ensure we’re compliant with environmental regulations.

A brand-new stadium by Zaha Hadid shall show the world their aims

In 2016 Forest Green Rovers announced plans for a new stadium with 5.000 seats. Eco Park is planned in a parkland where 500 trees and 1.8 km of new hedgerows would be planted. Even more stunningly, the stadium should largely consist of wood – and was designed by world-famous Zaha Hadid, who is known for the Innovation Tower in Hongkong, the Guangzhou Opera House or the London Aquatics Centre.

Forest Green Rovers’ Eco Park as planned, © Forest Green Rovers

The permission for the stadium is yet to follow, though. Should it be built, it could show the whole world of football and everyone else a way to make make sports clubs ambassadors for a greener, better world.

An important outcome of this policy is, we hope, long term behavioural change, not only at our club, but amongst supporters and the rest of the sporting world too,

reads FGR’s policy.

Another way for more awareness: Bringing the intentions to the world and youth

Forest Green Rovers, who currently sit 7th in League Two, are not content just working in a sustainable way. They want to share their ambitions with everyone – and would therefore surely like to climb the leagues. But mainly they strive for being a club, a company, that brings environmental conciousness to people by showing them the way. That’s why they offer the Fit2Last programme for schools, teaching the benefits of sports, recreation, healthy living and sustainability. Furthermore, their Ambassadors Scheme sees young people share their message in schools.

But what it also does is promote the club. FGR give away 400 replica shirts for children in Year 3 each year. Around that age children tend to choose teams they follow. So that might be a clever move in terms of gaining even more awareness amongst the youngest.

Children get free FGR shirts each year, © Forest Green Rovers

A small club in the fourth tier of England without any major trophies or star players they might be, but Forest Green Rovers are really the best club in the world as far as nature is concerned. And they do know how to gain attention for their club and hopefully mindfulness for their message.
In football, fortune favours the bold and who knows, if FGR go up and generate some more fans due to their unique approach, they could become something of a bigger club in the future. For now, they already are great for what they are doing and with such commitment, too. Rumour has it other big clubs have asked for advice now. A spokesperson from Forest Green Rovers has confirmed that they collaborate with the Bundesliga, the FIFA, the UEFA, World Rugby, Roland Garros and various others and that they’ve hosted Wembley Stadium, the EFL, Sky Sports and many more in order to tell those organisations what they do to keep their place as the world’s greenest football club. Now any association or company should take a look to the special club from Nailsworth, England.

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