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How professional football gamified climate action this weekend

Over 80 teams across the Premier League, lower English divisions, and Women’s Super League partook in the Green Football Weekend between February 3-5. Clubs implemented their own eco ideas while fans competed in a sustainable action league. 

On Friday evening, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher approached Chelsea FC catering staff to ask for a cup of tea ‘with vegan milk.’  

Prompting mocking laughs from co-pundits Gary Neville and Karen Carney, this wholesome moment goes to show that football really needs to buck up its ideas up regarding all things sustainability. 

To Jamie’s credit, he was trying to imbibe himself in the positive milieu created by the Green Football Weekend: a now annual campaign aimed at making the sport of football more climate friendly as its exponential growth continues. 

Primarily covered by Sky Sports and BT Sports, this initiative encouraged clubs in the Premier League, lower English divisions, and the Women’s Super League to make small sustainable changes for a combined impact of real significance.

Stadiums across the country offered scran – that’s footie lingo for food – with a vaster array of discounted vegan and vegetarian options, and opted for reusable cups and recyclable materials over single-use plastic. These practices were largely adopted across the board, but each individual club had its own ideas too.

In the Premier League, Tottenham put on a match-day shuttle bus and carbon neutral coach service to encourage fans to take public transport. Liverpool travelled away to Wolverhampton Wanderers in a team bus using sustainable fuel, and the home outfit announced a strategy to become net zero by 2040. 

Southampton Women and Aston Villa Women ran education seminars on sustainability for their teams and subsidised their fans’ coach travel. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough and Carlisle United hosted collections for sustainable boots and clothing, and set stools for local charities. 

On the pitch, player captains in several high-profile fixtures wore green armbands, advertising boards pushed the campaign, and broadcaster sets and microphone covers were made green also. 

Though the Premier League changes may have appeared fairly trivial, the significance of the message received by billions of football fans watching may not be. Besides, footie enthusiasts themselves have been incentivised to join in over a 20-day period. 

If you head to, you’ll see that fans have been registering their climate friendly actions in the form of ‘green goals’ to score points for their favourite club. These range from things like eating a vegetarian meal twice a week, turning the thermostat down one degree, taking a short shower, or biking to games.

As well as helping their selected club potentially receive a wooden trophy and sustainable bragging rights, these activities also put them in the running for prizes such as signed shirts, tickets to matches, free vacations, and a place at the Supporters Association Awards. 

Raising awareness through gamification is a novel approach and one that could really catch on. We all love competition in basically any context, after all. 

‘If the UK’s 36 million fans adopted three climate-friendly habits across the course of the 20-day tournament, they could save more than 700m kilograms CO2e – the equivalent of planting 11.78 million trees,’ explained Green Football Weekend spokesperson Sarah Jacobs. 

With so many eyes on the sport, pushing sustainability feels like an absolute no brainer. The sport itself, however, has a long way to go before it’s considered genuinely green. 

Despite the whinging of one Pep Guardiola last night, who suggested his side were exhausted from a Manchester to London drive, perhaps axing short-haul flights around the globe is the place to start.