Can Football Save The Planet?
Author: Ian Wright
Published: Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Are the days of footballers splashing their cash on flash cars and model girlfriends really coming to an end? Is it really more likely we will overhear our nation's sports stars discussing renewable energy and carbon footprints?
A new brand of green sports stars certainly hope so, and kicking of this eco-revolution is none other than former Man United whiz kid Gary Neville.
The 85 times capped England player has teamed up with green energy company Ecotricity to create the self-titled most sustainable football club in Britain.
Forest Green Rovers (FGR), a non league team in Gloucestershire, began its green make over at the end of 2011 when it installed 170 solar panels, and hopes other clubs will follow its lead.
Helen Taylor, Ecotricity ambassador, said: "It is a big change for the club and one we know others are looking to as a role model in sustainability. We have tried to create a club that is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.
"Dale Vince (Ecotricity founder and FGR chairman) helped the club out in 2010, when it was struggling financially and he wanted to use his expertise in green technology to make it as green as possible. I heard Gary was building an eco-home, so we invited him to come and look at the club and meet Dale and he told us about his vision of transforming sports by doing more towards sustainability and got immediately on board."
The Feed-in-tariff is a government scheme that helps you (or your company) save money in three ways if you generate your own energy.
- Firstly, you save money by not paying electricity bills, because you have created your own energy.
- Secondly the energy company will pay a generation tariff (21p per kWh before August 1, 2012/16p after), which is a small sum paid per kW whether the energy is used by you or not.
-Thirdly the energy company will then pay you an export tariff of 3p until August 1, 2012 and 4.5p after per kW for all energy not used that they can than export back to their grid.
She added it was too soon to see the immediate financial benefits, though the club says the panels will eventually produce as much as 25 per cent of the club's electricity, as well as providing an income via the Feed-in-tariff [see fact box].
Vince and Neville have since launched Sustainability in Sport, an organisation and soon-to-be charity, which aims to help sporting clubs and organisations in the UK to lower their carbon footprints.
Another sporting environmentalist, former Premiership football star David Ginola, was also quoted last year backing FGR's mission as well as outlining his own views backing sustainable living.
The move to install solar panels has also been wholeheartedly embraced by charities.
A spokesperson from Friends of the Earth said: "It is excellent when communities and sports organisations generate their own renewable energy.
"This is good for the land and good for local people, and it is great to see big sports team embracing this. We hope to see many more sports clubs following this excellent example."
Helen Taylor added: "Being a footballer, Gary acts as an inspiration to others and the idea is for everybody, from local community clubs right the way up to premiership level, to follow our lead."
However, concerns over the initial cost of installing solar panels could be the reason why some sports clubs are slow on the uptake.
Solar panels can cost from between £2,000 to £3,000 per kilowatt (kW) to purchase and install and to put this in perspective, the average family home will require at least a 2 kW system for all their energy needs.
But, Alexa Thomas Derrick, business executive at Alternegy, a solar panel distribution company, says the move does makes business sense.
She said: "If you have money to spend on the initial panels, it is a great way to save and make money. The Feed-in-tariff, means not only are you saving money on electricity bills, but being paid by your electricity company to do so."
She added: "To begin with the majority of our business was domestic, individuals purchasing solar panels for homes. But we have seen that shift towards sporting stadiums, leisure centres and swimming pools, as well as more and more in agriculture too."
For more information on sustainability in sport visit www.sustainabilityinsport.com.