• Rob Bird

Feature: Is Football Unsustainable?

Although the game of football itself is of course sustainable, and offers an array of physical benefits for players, through reliance on environmentally damaging industries, such as aviation and material production, the game could definitely be 'greener'.


In 2015 the UN implemented a 1.5C limit on climate change, and keeping under this level of climatic rising will mean life as we currently know it wouldn't need to change drastically; however we're currently set to reach temperature rise of 3.2C, potentially as soon as 2030. In turn, this would cause catastrophic, irreversible affects to the planet; namely the flooding of coastal cities (stemmed through sea level rise, caused by the melting of continental ice sheets through global warming) such as New York, common heatwaves, and regular droughts.





Aviation is one of the worst contributors to greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere, with official statistics suggesting it's responsible for 2 percent of total UK emissions, but in reality this is more likely to be around 10 percent. Through the burning of jet-fuel (composed of fossil fuels), greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are emitted, which trap heat on the earth which would usually be re-emitted to space, essentially causing artificial overheating, like the effect seen in a greenhouse.


Through sports tourism, football is becoming more dependent on the aviation sector, with fans traveling constantly for mega-events such as the FIFA World Cup, Euros and Nations League. Aside from this however, private flying is being used more within Premier League clubs, with some flying 24 times more regularly than the average Briton.


In addition, though the creation of football kits (usually made from a polyester mix), training equipment and single-use plastics (such as disposable water bottles) the material production industry is also being over utilised, which currently is responsible for 8 million tonnes of plastic waste dumped directly into our oceans annually.





Polyester kits, usually through being mixed with other, non-recyclable materials within a polyester mix, are commonly not recyclable and therefore after use within elite football organisations are directly put into landfill or incinerated, both of which are harmful to the environment. Considering how much kit Premier League football clubs get through in a season, this is a real problem; however one answer could be to use natural materials, created through plants like bamboo, which can be stripped down to their fibre and used to make natural materials, ideal for sports clothing.


However, the sad reality is that football, especially at elite level, is not doing anywhere near enough to aid the climate emergency; and through being viewed by billions worldwide, is showcasing unsustainable habits. In time, it could be that new initiatives are put in place, like a pollution taxation system for example, which when used in relation to flying, would allow an individual a certain amount of airmails free, before a tax was incurred. Furthermore, this would mean the regular fliers who cause the damage (such as seen within Premier League clubs), would be paying for that damage, with the money gained being fed directly back into environmental cleanup campaigns, not dissimilar to the current system in place for income tax.


We're at a crucial stage in our battle for a healthy, liveable climate, but football must act responsibly if we're not to exceed the 1.5C cap.

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