They really are something special, the Forest Green Rovers from Nailsworth, England. Not that they are one of the great sides to grace a football pitch, but their ambition, especially off that said pitch is nothing less than remarkable. Named the first UN climate neutral club in the world, the Rovers are now stepping up their sustainability game even more and launch a kit made of bamboo that shall reduce the use of plastic. This move is great for the environment, yet it’s great marketing as well and will surely have more people interested in the kit. And additional awareness and revenue could further enhance the club’s sportive ambitions that are woven into the kit, too.
Forest Green Rovers: Inextricably related to nature
The Foreste Green Rovers will start in England’s fourth tier again next season, after narrowly missing out on promotion. They finished fifth but were beaten by Tranmere Rovers in the play off semis. Thus, the club will surely eye promotion this season, for the aim is to reach the Football League Championship rather sooner than later. That is just what one feature of the new FGR kit tells us. If you look at the back of the new kit, you’ll notice three stars, standing for the Football League divisions from the Championship to League Two, according to the club’s website. One star is coloured, since the Rovers got into the Football League in 2017; two are greyed out, signifying the steps to go.
The kit itself is inspired by nature. Cult club owner Dale Vince is eager to transform the club into a model for any sports club, when it comes to green sports business. Climate neutrality confirmed by the UN, 100 per cent green energy, completely vegan food and the use of electric vehicles are just a few aspects that make the club so special. We’ve featured them in another article. The club’s aim is to do business in line with nature:
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.
In terms of impact, the new kit will be a game changer. Created in cooperation with kit supplier PlayerLayer, it is made of a 50 per cent bamboo mix, with the view to integrate even more natural fabric in the future. Dale Vince said:
We’ve taken inspiration from nature with our new kit – from the zebra stripes to the sustainable materials. I was pretty shocked when I found out that modern sportswear is actually made from plastic – that feels wrong to me, not just from the sustainability point of view, but for performance too. Together with PlayerLayer, we’re making strides towards a new approach for football kit – this year’s 50% Bamboo is a stake in the ground (no pun intended), we plan to move beyond that. The aim is 100% sustainable high-performance material.
The kit will certainly be an eyecatcher with its zebra look in light green. Additionally, it features the iconic Sea Shepherd skull, since FGR are working together with the NGO closely.
The choice of sponsors is very much in line with the sustainable approach as well. Ecotricity, Vince’s energy company operating with wind and solar energy, is the main sponsor, of course. But the Forest Green Rovers can count Oatly as partners as well, a company that produces plant-based drinks and has risen to some prominence lately. Their logo is also emblazoned on the new shirt.
Roderick Bradley, founder of shirt creator PlayerLayer, emphasised:
We are privileged to work with such a forward thinking, creative and rebellious football club. We are developing some completely natural fabrics which will change the sports clothing industry forever.
The first rewards for such a bold move are there to see.
Forest Green Rovers as a modern football brand
You cannot compare a forth-tier club like the Forest Green Rovers with a merchandise machine like Manchester United or Real Madrid, with proven winning clubs like Bayern Munich or Juventus Turin. But the Rovers are turning into something of a cult brand in their own right with their unique sustainable approach being the platform for global appreciation.
Maybe the club is one of few where people would rather know the iconic owner than the majority of the players.
And other clubs or sports brands have, of course, also started creating kits that should have a positive impact on the environment. Last season Adidas made parley kits out of plastic from the oceans, recycled wear which was marketed and sold quite well.
In the MLS, a lot of clubs are sporting a parley kit from the German manufacturer these days.
While the brandnew Forest Green Rovers kit is a good start for even more sustainable football clothing, it surely attracts attention among football fans and green thinkers across the world. On the one hand, the shirt will make quite a few entrances in the media. On the other hand, though, it could be a good seller due to its iconic zebra stripe look paired with FGR’s more and more known colours and because of its newness and uniqueness in terms of its fabric. The club say it has already been ordered across the globe – and it’s available anywhere.
With all that in mind, Forest Green Rovers are indeed something special, a club that offers video clips for vegan recipes on the official YouTube channel.
But they also know how to promote another world’s first with their new bamboo kit. As a supporter of the club or maybe only of the approach, you can get greener and get a shirt for free. Because you can win it by choosing Ecotricity and 100 per cent green energy. That shows how Dale Vince does understand the business part of the club; and he mixes that remarkably well with the ecological and sustainable approach of the whole club structure. That work has put the club in more people’s perspective and such awareness will someday be needed in order to monetise fans and grow as a football club that is keen to reach the Championship. But if you can make money, develop your club and still help save the world, you’re bound to be one of the most celebrated clubs on earth – if not on the pitch, at least off it. Credit where it’s due, Forest Green Rovers and PlayerLayer.