Specifier Review

Is football top of the sustainability league?

With the Premier League now back with a vengeance, Ellina Webb looks at whether clubs are embracing sustainability

With the start of the football season, I thought it appropriate to put the football industry under my sustainability microscope, especially since in 2016 FIFA become the first international sports organisation to join the United Nations (UN) climate change initiative…

In 2016 FIFA pledged to measure, reduce and compensate their greenhouse gas emissions related to the 2018 FIFA World Cup by joining ‘Climate Neutral Now’ as part of the Paris Agreement.

Beyond the World Cup they also pledged that through the power of football, they aim to inspire greater awareness and best practices in sustainability standards.

So what are our UK Premier League football clubs doing to support this pledge and be sustainable?


Arsenal Football Club is one of those clubs, cementing itself as one of the greenest clubs in the UK. Blessed with a brand new stadium in 2006 it only made sense that sustainability was something the club should strive for. According to their website the Emirates Stadium has a recycling area, a glass recycling scheme, a cardboard baler (they currently recycle 10 tonnes of  cardboard and plastic a month), an oil recycling scheme, waterless urinals and most significantly a correctly set Building Management System (BMS) to ensure empty rooms are not being heated or cooled.

On top of this they ensure plastic bottles from match days are recycled, have installed LED lights, linked lighting to motion sensors and ensured hot water thermostats are set to minimum ‘safe’ levels.


To help save energy the club encourage staff to be mindful of electrical usage and printing, they have also adopted energy saving and motion sensor lighting where possible and encourage the use of public transport and recycling. Furthermore all paper is environmentally sustainable and all bags used at the Chelsea Megastores are made from biodegradable materials.


Liverpool Football Club are also keen on energy savings and in 2013, a year after signing a policy to reduce their energy consumption by 10%, they saved enough gas and electricity to power over 350 homes for a year!

They even have a team of 10 employees across the club who are dedicated to raising awareness of energy-savings. The team is called “Reds Going Green”.

In 2014 Liverpool FC was also named Merseyside’s Carbon Champion of The Year at the Echo Environment Awards because of their “Reds Going Green” team. The team was celebrated for their on-going commitment.

Manchester City

In regards to Manchester City Football Club, they state that zero percent of all their waste goes to landfill and that they have reduced energy use at the Etihad Stadium by almost 1m kW hours. They have fitted 5,272 LED lamps to reduce energy and have also had a drop of 15% in what they term ‘fugitive’ energy – in other words, energy wasted in unoccupied rooms. Manchester City has also introduced a waste water system which recycles waster water from the grounds system for both the stadium and the Academy.

On its dedicated CSR website, Man United Football Club state that “Everyone at the club is committed to tackling environmental and social issues at regional, national and international level, using the Manchester United brand to leverage support and create awareness of the issues facing the planet.”

The same site has links to the club’s environmental statement which details the work the club does to maintain ISO14001 environmental management system and Carbon Trust Standard.

This includes continuing with the developed carbon and renewable energy strategy, waste management, minimising the use of non-renewable materials, and increasing recycling and rainwater harvesting.


Since 2010 however, with White Hart Lane being dismantled, all focus is on the new stadium. Controversially it has been reported that the new stadium will only get a small amount of energy from renewable sources, breaking the Haringey councils planning policy. However the club refuted these claims saying the new stadium will be one of the most energy efficient stadiums in the UK, with carbon emissions 50% lower than that of the nearby Emirates Stadium.

The lack of on-site renewable technology is because the stadium will connect to new District Heating Network across North Tottenham.

The stadium is also reportedly using sustainable materials, construction methods, energy efficient utilities and the design aims to minimise heating and cooling demands.

Beyond the premier league

Outside the premier league football clubs like Aston Villa have embraced green energy to become completely carbon neutral. In fact, in 2013 Villa Park officially became a carbon-neutral stadium.

Footballers themselves are also trying to support the sustainability in football message. In 2012 Gary Neville and Dale Vince (who is the owner of an electricity company) founded a foundation called “Sustainability in Sport” in which they “take the eco message to the whole world of sport”.

They do this by promoting best eco practice, engaging with governing bodies and working with technology providers to demonstrate technology that will improve the sustainability of sport. For example Forest Green Rovers (of which Dale Vince is the Chairman) worked with Sustainability in Sport to put into place some environmental initiatives such as an organic pitch, LED floodlights, the installation of PV panels on the stadium roof and a meat-free, sustainable menu for football fans.

A final thought

The steps that the football industry are taking in being more energy efficient is quite impressive, and beyond that their quest to raise awareness in both the community and with fans is an important part of ensuring the population work together to help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets.

There are so many football clubs in the UK that are making changes to their operations, their stadiums and the culture within club, that I couldn’t mention them all. So if I haven’t mentioned your club above, why not give it a Google and see what they are doing to be sustainable too?