The Guardian. Hello and welcome to The Guardian Football Weekly special on the relationship between football and climate change, the sports impact on our climate and the changing climate impact on the game. One fascinating thing about this subject is that it is barely talked about, but there is a climate emergency in the world of football happens to take place in the world.
Questions then from private jets to football teams to fans travelling the world to follow them from new kits being designed and made every season to the suspect climate friendly credentials of the game's biggest sponsors. And how much should fans care and how do you make them care? Football was meant to be an escape from the existential worries about the future. Or, more accurately, football was meant to cause existential crisis but don't really matter rather than ones that do. We'll discuss all of it with an expert panel.
One of those pods where Barry and I don't say much and then he will hopefully say it was great. And that's today's Guardian Football Weekly.
Barry, how are you? Nice to see you. I'm very well, thanks, Max. I am actually looking forward to this because I didn't realise until about.
Three hours ago, just how breathtakingly ignorant and unaware I was of the A imminent apocalypse and B, the size of footballs carbon footprint.
So, yeah, I'm looking forward to hearing what we can do.
And I, I think there were probably already people there will see this being released there, will see it on Twitter, and they will roll their eyes and go, oh, here we go already. And being, you know, happy clappy. But yeah, I, I think this is going to be very good.
Great. On the panel today, then, David Goldblatt, author of The Age of Football The Global Game in the 21st Century and who published Playing Against the Clock Global Sport and Climate Change last June. Thanks for coming on, David.
Great to be here and thanks for pestering me occasionally about why we should be doing this podcast. Always host of Sustainable Podcast, and the first time ever they've been to Cambridge United fans on The Guardian Football Weekly at the same time. How are you doing? Very good. Very good. After this weekend. Thank you as well. Yes.
Yeah. I did want to bring that up quite so soon as the final member of the panel is the chairman of Forest Green Rovers, who we hammered one nil on Saturday. They are. Venz, thanks so much for coming on, Dayle.
Yeah, pleasure, actually. And I thought the best team won on Saturday, so I've got no bad feelings about that.
It's very kind of you to say forestry is, of course, recognised by FIFA and the UN as the world's greenest club. We've had loads of questions. Thank you for all the questions, which were a bit like Ollie Burns. Given St James's Park is at the top of a hill, will Newcastle have a chance of winning the league? If the polar ice caps melting flood, the country will maybe get to those. If we have time in part one, we're going to look at climate crisis, his impact on football, Liverpool's impact on the climate crisis.
And there was a first question from Peter which said, What does football have to do with climate change? It's quite an open question. That could probably take an hour, David.
Well, it goes in two directions. On the one hand, football and commercial sport in general is a significant contributor to the world's carbon emissions. And on the other hand, football, just like absolutely everything else on this planet, every institution, every social practise is going to be affected by climate change in the next 30 years.
So just to give you, like the you know, the back of the fact packet calculation, the global sports industry is worth something in the region of 500 billion dollars, and that's not including illegal betting or sportswear. So that makes it about nought point eight per cent of global GDP. On the one hand, it's not like manufacturing cement, so it's not as carbon intensive as some things. On the other hand, as much carbon lighter than other kinds of economic practise.
And I reckon it's probably around the middle, mainly because of transportation. So that means, you know, global sport as a whole, nought point eight percent of global carbon emissions, not a lot, you might think, but that's like Poland or Spain, and no one's given them a pass on dealing with this problem and then football within that.
You know, I reckon it's around nought point three, nought point four percent, you know, as the most popular global game with the biggest number of spectators globally, I'm going to say it's nought point three, nought point four percent. But that's like, you know, Tunisia, it's not an insignificant amount in and of itself. So that's the impact of football and sports making other way around in terms of how climate change is going to impact on football.
Well, it depends where you live. Let's start if you're living in Ghana, daytime football and a kick about outside the house at noon in 2045 is not going to be a pleasant experience. I mean, all over the world, outdoor football with rising temperatures and the physiology of this stuff is like once you get over 35 degrees centigrade, everything is going south and there's going to be a lot more more than 35 degrees centigrade in this world. Then you're looking at the issue of drought.
And again, that's not going to be a problem probably in Lancashire, but it's going to be a really significant issue on grass pitches all over the world. I mean, we've had this problem in cricket in India and South Africa recently, and then you've got the humidity because heat is bad. But heat plus humidity, which is what we expect with more extreme weather in the future, is really problematic. And that's why this summer the Tokyo Olympic Marathon is not being run in Tokyo, because it's too dangerous, because it's too hot and it's too humid.
And they're going to run it in Sapporo, a thousand kilometres north here in Britain, the big issue is going to be extreme weather and rain. Of course, it's not going to be sunshine. Our problem is going to be rain. I think we're looking at a lot more cancellations, a lot more. We've had those in the last few years due to extreme weather. Grassroots football is in serious trouble. We're already in a situation where around a third of grassroots pitchers are losing six weeks to two months of the year from flooding and inadequate drainage.
And there is a lot of that coming our way. And then just to top it all off, we've got the problem of sea level rising and flooding from, again, extreme weather events. And I did a bit of research on a website called Climate Central Dog, and it's Google Maps plus climate and sea level rise predictions. And I put in the addresses of the 92 stadiums of the top four leagues and asked, what's this going to look like in 2050?
Now, there are some caveats because the degree to which mitigation, building of seawalls, et cetera, is taken into account is not clear. But even so, 23 of the 92 are going to be looking at annual problems of serious flooding by 2050. That's not very far away. I mean, you know, the Riverside and Middlesborough will probably be OK, but Steve Gibson's going to have to buy a fleet of gondoliers to get people to the stadium.
The way the sea level rises on the coast. That seaside are looking at, you know, Grimsby town. Bless them. I love them. I think they may have to take up waterpolo the way things are looking at the moment. And I joke, but this is a serious matter. And of course, it's not just here, you know, Bordeaux's Atlantic Stadium, Verd Breman Stadium, all very close to the sea, all deeply imperilled by sea level rises.
So, you know, across the board, depending on where you are, a whole series of problems are going to be placing professional and amateur football. And, you know, we're not the global cement industry here, but it's a significant contribution.
Dale, does it surprise you, given the extent of the issues, if you try and Google it, there's almost nothing written about it.
In fact, probably everything is written about forest green rovers, you know?
Yeah, it kind of doesn't surprise me, really, I suppose, because, you know, we got started doing this about 10 years ago, creating a green football club. It just came about from rescuing Forest Green. Our local club never had a plan or anything like that. And then I guess quickly realised just how radical it was to try to bring the environment and sustainability into football. And then a few years ago, we hooked up with the UN and we're founding signatories of the Sport for Climate Action Programme, which is kind of a programme to engage the whole world of sport in the stuff that Forest Green have done.
And so I guess from where I'm sat, there's quite a lot going on. I think we've got over 200 signatories to the programme now and the UN is right behind it and stuff is happening. But you're probably right. You know, in terms of general media coverage, you'll see stuff about forest green and what we've done, but there's not a lot more because I love the idea of just hooking up with the UN.
You're a more connected man than I am. Molly, what are your initial thoughts? Just hearing what David said.
Yeah, well, I think everything everything David said is was scary. And it's big, isn't it? That's that's the thing about climate change in general is so massive and overwhelming that no one knows where to start talking about it. And, you know, when even when you look at it in the context of one industry like like football, again, it's just like, well, where do we start?
What can we do? But I think talking about it is probably one of the most important things that needs to happen.
And there's been this kind of almost like a sort of climate or a culture of silence around climate change is a bit taboo, is one of those things that you don't really want to bring up with your mates because you'll be the weirdo or they'll think something differently or whatever. But it's the story of our time. It's going to become even more the story of our time. And, you know, David was talking about what was going to happen to the grounds in 2050.
And that's, you know, 2050 is closer than 1990 was well to us. You know, it's it feels like a long way away, but it's not a long way away. And, of course, the impacts are happening now already. So I just I just think it's really it's really important to talk about it as a starting point and to acknowledge that it's massive and it's difficult and it's complicated and it's going to be uncomfortable. But that's you know, we've got to start somewhere.
Historically, David, football is quite slow to change as well.
Well, you know, yes and no. I mean, who knew about, you know, false no annoyance a few years back then. You can't move for them. They're everywhere. I mean, actually, the rapidity with which. Technical, tactical, statistical. Knowledge moves around the global football world is probably faster than it's ever been. There are no invisible you know, we used to watch the World Cup and it's like, oh, Brazil. I haven't seen that for four years now.
Everybody in football actually knows everything all the time. So I think the possibility actually of rapid change, um, is not is not is not inconceivable. And you've got a very different kind of calibre and group of people running football clubs these days. And we're talking, you know, pretty serious operators. So I think the technical ability is there to do it. And I think, as Dale said, there is real momentum. I mean, you know, when you have four now, members of the Premier League have signed up to the UN support for Climate Action Framework.
When you're beginning to hear players like Hector Bellarine or Patrick Banford are beginning to talk in some way about climate action. And I just feel it. You know, more broadly in society, people are kind of post covid. I think people are beginning to wake up a little bit to this stuff. I mean, this is how I came to be writing about it myself, you know, made it my kind of lockdown project was what's the lesson of covid, you know?
Well, take the science is seriously. Assume the worst case scenario really can happen. And if you're going to do something about it, let's do it now, not ten years down the line. And I thought, well, let's apply that to climate change and sport. And there's, you know, huge things bubbling under. Arsenal have got there kind of extraordinary lithium battery, you know, and a stadium covered in solar panels. And it's not just in football.
You know, Gloucester County Cricket Club is committed to being carbon zero as well. There's definitely movement out there. And, you know, cynicism is easy. I've been doing that one for 30 years on climate change. I mean, certainly I feel film this time subjects in the 1990s. And what was my conclusion is too hard. I don't know what to do. And actually that didn't get me anywhere either for the last 30 years or so, you know, pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, football and climate change.
But David, football's governing bodies don't seem to be paying much more than lip service know. Tournaments are expanding. There are many tournaments. You know, there's going to be another European competition.
This will all surely increase the carbon footprint rather than decrease it.
Sure. So something really helpful, I think, for all of us to think about everyone to think about this, because people are always coming back to flying international tournaments. And, of course, they are a problem. But approximately 60 to 70 percent of the carbon footprint of any football club are spectators going to and from the stadium where the problem, not the team. I mean, of course, when we go to international matches, that redoubles the problem.
But actually, you know, flying players around is for let's take wolfsberg, who have probably the most serious study of their carbon footprint of any football club I've seen and, you know, flying the team around, moving them around 2.5 percent of their carbon footprint.
So that's just really worth bearing in mind, like where the big changes are going to have to come, 17, 18 percent of carbon emissions, energy, you know, for heating, lighting, you know, sorting out the pitch, all of that stuff, you know, sportswear and merchandising, three or four percent food, two or three percent, something like that. So the real bulk is inspective to travel. OK, all of that said, your governing bodies wait for a making serious change here.
I'm hearing good noise from UEFA. Now, on the one hand, as you rightly say, Euro 2020, 12 stadiums all over the continent, millions of air miles madness. On the other hand, UEFA are committed to offsetting the carbon emissions from Euro 2020 and all subsequent European championships by investing in reforestation, carbon capture, etc. and not just, you know, for their own costs, but every single spectator. So that's quite a commitment. I mean, we can argue whether offsets are a good thing or not, but I think UEFA.
Yeah, you're beginning to hear change. And I should say, paradoxically, Qatar 2022, the most hydrocarbon drenched tournament in all of human history, is also paradoxically committed to the most carbon zero approach to actually running the tournament that. We've seen so far so there are laggards, every league, every football association, every commercial football club needs to be signing up. And as Dale said, there are 200 signatories now at the UN. I mean, we need thousands and we need them now.
It's like not next week. The time to act is now, Ollie.
Yeah. On the upsetting thing, I mean, I hate to be the doom monger, but is the Guardian surely I'm allowed, but it's absolutely yeah.
There's a massive question mark over overall setting that there's obviously good schemes in. There's bad schemes and everything in between. But it more often than not is used as a massive smokescreen for just continuing what you were doing already. And a lot of people don't use it like that, but a lot of people do use it like that. And, you know, is it's a difficult one to rely on.
But I did want to just go into that that UN framework thing, which which we've talked about before is it's.
Yes, great. And it's really good to see those for Premier League Club sign up to it. But I think there is a kind of elephant in the room with all of this because they're having a look at it earlier. And number four point four of that framework is promote sustainable and responsible consumption. And I think when you start thinking about that in the context of the sponsorship of the game, that's when you start to run into problems because you've got, you know, just look at it, look at the Champions League.
You've got Gazprom all over it, Continental, Castrol, Emirates, Qatar Airways, you know, all all of these high carbon industries, often very extractive industries that we see all over the game and.
I think that you've got to seriously look at that as a club, as a as a ruling body, if you're going to be credible about that fourth of the UN framework that they've signed up to.
They are. What do you think about that as a as a club? Do you look at your sponsors and it's financially difficult for clubs, right?
Yeah, no, it's an easy issue for us. We bumped into it before. We won't take sponsorship from betting companies. We came out, I think, last week supporting a call to ban junk food from sports sponsorship because they use sport for sport washing of what it is that they do. So we don't have any problems with that. We're simply against the things that we think are wrong and won't take money from those industries. I also just wanted to say, if I could, Ollie and David both mentioned that climate change looks difficult and complicated and you don't know where to start.
We do see it differently to that. I think it's all about energy. Transport and food is just three things. High power itself. I travel and what you eat and 80 per cent of everybody's personal carbon footprint, more or less. And every organisation is just in those three things where we make decisions. And that's the kind of universal slide rule that we applied to for as Green was 10 years ago. And everything else that we do is really not that complicated.
Just want to say that. And also Wolfsburg, they may have the most complete carbon accounting Davis ever seen, but he hasn't looked at us.
Well, we'll talk about we'll talk about yours in part to do that in just a sec. You said there are your fussiness over who who you have as sponsors. But not every club is in a position to be as picky as far as greenies, and that is something fans of other clubs will immediately leap on. So I think it would be negligent if I didn't raise with you.
Yeah, I think what you're saying is we can't all afford to have morals and principles. And I think, you know, that's a terrible outlook on life because we can ill afford to have morals and principles. And I don't know if you remember, you probably do. Back in the day, was it 20 years ago, there was a proposed ban on tobacco advertising for Formula One and there was a big hoo ha it was going to kill the sport or were these guys going to do for alternate revenue?
And look at Formula One that's thriving without tobacco sponsorship. So football could thrive without betting sponsorship, without fast food sponsorship, it could happen. What we need is just a change in the rules, really. So that applies to everybody. And it's not a choice that people have to make. OK, that's a good place to end.
Part one. Part two. I want to hear about your journey down with Forest Green and find out how many other clubs look at you. And I'm going to follow. We'll do that in a second.
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Can report to The Guardian Football Weekly, Climate Change Special, Climate Crisis special, we got an email from one of the bosses of The Guardian saying climate change is not the word anymore. It's not serious enough. It has to be climate crisis. But they are.
When you got involved with Forest Green, you know, your local club, they're on the verge of bankruptcy, transform them into the world's first vegan and carbon neutral team, playing on an organic pitch. I don't even know what that is. With a kit now made of recycled coffee beans. What's that journey been like? And how easy or difficult was it to sort of carry fans, managers, players with you?
First, a question.
How long do you think it would be before we escalate the language to climate cluster fuck from now?
Now, I think, you know, the journey's been fun and I would say there's been relatively easy. But it is, I think, because I have a particular mindset and approach, you know. So from the day that I first bumped into the fact that we had real issues at first Green having rescued it, that we were serving red meat and I was part of the meat trade and I had to stop that from that day, we just started making changes and there was no way we would not make those changes.
And I'm a sci fi fan. I don't know if you guys watch Star Trek, but there is a particular alien species. They're called the Borg and they have a great expression. They say resistance is futile. And I'm often asked what kind of resistance we got to changing the menu at first Green Rovers. And that's my answer. Quite often it didn't actually matter because it was futile. We were going to make that change anyway, but we didn't do it in an arrogant or high-handed way.
We engage with our fans. We talk to them about why we were making the change, not just what change we were making when we said, look, come to football and try a new kind of food. The food is just the example here, because it was the really kind of the most emotional issue. And, you know, trying new kind of food is two hours a fortnight, actually a home game on average. And, you know, it's not a big deal.
And if you don't like it, just bring your own food to eat. It's not like we care, but we're doing this according to our own principles and we have to operate that way. And, you know, it didn't take very long at all for even the most ardent meat eaters, I would say, because there was a small crowd of people that were a bit angry about it. They thought they were being dictated to. And we said that's not actually what's happening.
We're just setting the menu according to our principles. But it wasn't long before they came around as well, because the bar and football food is super low. You know, you probably you probably find it lower than a limbo bar, probably. And and so the food that we made, this vegan food was just easily, easily, far better. And, you know, for us, it's ten years in the past now in the rear-View Mirror, but it's still the big question.
Everybody else, how do you take your football club or your sporting event vegan without having a riot? And I think it's never been easier. You know, vegan food is more prevalent now. The diet, the lifestyle is more commonplace. The products are there. Everybody knows about it. You know, it's easy to do today. And everything else is just kind of flowed from that. We use energy, transport and food is our template. So we put some solar panels in.
Did the energy efficiency stuff, electric car charging points on the transport front. We've got electric vehicles in the pool, not yet an electric team coach, but they're coming soon. Organic, which means no artificial pesticides and fertilisers. It's a big issue in agriculture and a big issue in the climate cluster. Fuck, if I could say that or let's call it the climate crisis and then we start looking at materials for sure. It's a couple of years ago we launched Bamboo as a new sustainable material, and this year we're launching coffee grounds, which is a bit of fun.
And at the same time we launch a new show every two years, not every year, so our fans can keep them for longer, you know, so you got to look at the details as well as the big picture we've taken out Single-Use plastics and stuff like that. And we've taken our fans on a journey. And probably the most important point for me is that our fans don't just tolerate what we've done and what we do and what we stand for will embrace it.
They're proud of it. I bump into fans all of the time, actually. They're converging or vegan. They're going electric. I want to go there. The last time we had a game with fans actually was volunteering on the game and he said to me, I've got an electric car, I'm veggie, not yet. And I've got solar panels and they're getting a battery from my house. And I was like, wow. I mean, that's more than I've got.
I haven't got batteries in my house. And so I would say we went into this thinking football fans would be a relatively untouched, potentially difficult audience to take the message to. That made it more appealing for us. And what we found is the not I mean, they're just like normal people. You take them the information, you show them what's wrong and how to do something differently. We don't preach or push people. We just say this is why we do what we do and they pick that up and change their lives.
How important has it been that you've been successful on the pitch?
Vital. Vital. The way I see it, we've got two legs. One of them is football and what is sustainability? And, you know, to have any real credibility as a as a sustainable football club, we've got to have credibility as a football club. I would say there's a great symbiosis between the. To actually, you know, the sustainability agenda has got global coverage and a global fanbase now, but at the same time it's important that we play good football and we do exciting things, get promoted, that kind of stuff.
In everything that I've done in sustainability, I've come to realise that when you're offering a green alternative to something, it can't be in any way substandard. So, you know, we built a car in 2008, an electric car. You could have buy one in the world. And we knew right then that we had to build a great car, had to look good, had to go good, you know, had to have a high top speed, great handling that kind of stuff.
Our organic pitch is all well and good having one. But if the grass isn't great, if it isn't a great pitch, people will say, oh yeah, it's organic, but and you don't want that. Same with food you don't want. Yes, but and so everything you have to do when you propose a green alternative has to be at least as good as the conventional alternative.
And is it more expensive or is it more expensive to run forest green than it is to run? I know Stevenage or Rotherham or Watford in relative terms.
I don't actually know what it takes to run those clubs. But what I do know is that typically in in green stuff, you swap operating expenditure for capital expenditure. So for example, if we buy solar panels, we pay a certain price upfront that you don't pay if you just buy grid electricity. But for the next 20 years, we have solar powered electricity that the cuts, the electricity bill. And this is true of most green measures. You do a little bit of investment in the technology.
Energy efficiency is a good example. The payback period in energy efficiency would be two years, maybe solar panels is about seven years, that kind of stuff. So you just swap one for the other. So longer term, your operating costs are lower along with your carbon footprint. That's quite normal.
Tell us about the new stadium, all wooden stadium, is that right?
Yeah, it is, yes. So it's been designed for us by Dede's practise and it resulted from a competition we set must be seven or eight years ago now. And we were looking for the greenest football stadium that had ever been built, more or less, you know, so nothing too challenging. And we got an awful lot of responses. Amongst them was that they said they were only interested by the brief. The scale of the project wasn't really big enough for them, but we were super blessed by that because they were quite easily won with an incredible design.
I mean, it looks beautiful, but it's to be made entirely of wood. And the environment message in that that I learnt is really interesting. The carbon footprint of any sport stadia throughout its entire operating life is 75 percent locked in on day one because it's in the materials. It is built with concrete and steel. So by having a wooden stadium, we're going to have the lowest carbon footprint anywhere in the world since the Romans invented concrete, I reckon, rather Glyde point.
Presumably that will be safe. Fireproof. Yeah. Yeah.
You know, you're not allowed to smoke in football stadiums anymore. What people do at halftime have a crafty one in the gents. It won't bog down the question.
Hey, look, it's a question that comes up all of the time, of course. And there are a number of things to bear in mind. One is modern timber is engineered to be fire retardant, is actually safer in a fire than steel because steel will collapse at a certain temperature. But the world will just charge so you won't have the roof falling on your head. More than stadia are designed to be emptied. And a handful of minutes, which wasn't true of the old stadium where fire disasters did happen.
And of course, as you say, there's no smoking anyway. And and it's the cigarettes falling through the stands into the accumulated rubbish underneath. It started those fires. And, you know, that won't be happening. Even if somebody does have a fact, they won't be a drop on some rubbish that's been accumulating underneath for so many reasons. It will be safe.
It was interesting what you said about football fans and going along with the journey, because my my hunch is that football fans are, you know, are not necessarily the early adopters for change. And, you know, they like things how they used to be. You know, you could just talk about Val, for example, which I would love to get rid of, actually.
What about other chairmen? You know, I'm sort of trying to think of it in my mind, only going to lead to chairman, a sort of slightly rosy faced climate deniers, probably, and I don't if I'm being completely unfair. But have you got the sense that people are interested when they come to Forest Greener when you go to a game that they're talking to about sustainability and changes they can make?
Yeah, definitely. And I would say it's transitioned as well from from the early days from being, like, interested in something that was really quite an oddity to more recently interested in something that they actually have a genuine interest in. And they're starting to think about what they can do as a club as well. So we've had lots of conversations with clubs in League One League, too, and the Premier League championship as well about what they can do. And and it will be across any number of things like electric cars or it could be food, it could be organic pictures, anything, really.
And everybody's got their own kind of particular interest, it seems to me, you know, when whenever I'm trying to. Somebody from another club to be one particular part of what we've done that they're interested in, and finally, lots of people wanted to tweet in and say, how's Hector Bellarine doing? You know, are you going to sign him, cetera. It was interesting when he sort of got involved with his group.
Yeah, it's fabulous. Got in touch with his round about this time last year, I think, saying that, you know, he'd like to find a way to get involved in what he called the FGA family. And we had a chat over the summer and then we landed on the shareholding and, you know, up with this lovely story about when when he went vegan, Harry had a conversation with his mother on the phone about it. And she's like, But Hector, you don't even like vegetables, which is a lovely guy and are really keen to be a part of the club.
And I don't know where it'll go in the future, but it's just great to have him on board. Brilliant.
Well, that's fascinating. Part two, part three. We will ask what needs to be done on a grand scale and on a small scale, what football fans, what we can do to make a difference.
Welcome to Part three of The Guardian Football Weekly, a special on the climate crisis and its relationship with football, with the author David Goldblatt podcast, Wally Hays, owner of Forest Green Rovers Dale. Vince, you mentioned, David, the UN support for Climate Action Framework, Liverpool, Spurs, Southampton, also have signed up to that. What is it?
Well, it's pretty lowest common denominator of what can be agreed amongst the major sports federations and big commercial operations. And at the moment, it commits people to being climate neutral by 2050. So getting carbon zero by 2050 and encouraging their fans, their members, their constituents, whatever kind of organisation they are to embrace that same agenda, to speak to their sponsors, etc.. None of this is kind of fixed. There's no kind of compulsion. It's everybody's joining up.
And on the one hand, that's great. You know, it's the beginning. But the real problem, I there's no issue about sponsorship. And that was a really good point that that was made earlier. I mean, if we're going down this path, we can't be taking money from Gazprom or Sokal, you know, the Azerbaijani national oil company, Atlético Madrid. I think there's a debate over vehicles because, you know, we're going to have to replace pretty much every single vehicle on this planet in the next 30 years and someone's got to build them.
So it depends what kind of vehicle maker you are. And the other problem is that, you know, sport, if football in particular is going to make a difference, we're going to make a difference not by being lost and not by being carbon neutral in 2050, but by doing it now, by being the catalyst, by showing the way. And so we really, you know, the UN and the signatories, everybody needs to up their game and commit to being carbon zero for 2030 because that's you know, we need to make those big changes to prevent the worst of the more than two degrees centigrade rise.
We need to make big changes in the next 10 years. And as Dale says, it's not rocket science change or energy forms of, you know, where you buy your energy, change your food offering, change the materials you're using. And and this is the tricky one, a massive investment in public transport, walking and cycling for people going to sports events of all kinds. And this is you know, this is not just football. Can't do it by itself, of course.
I mean, let's take the case of Bristol Rovers who would like to have as many people as possible cycling and taking the bus to the stadium. But at the moment, 82 percent of people go to the stadium by car. And the reason that they do is that the bus service in Bristol requires most of the fan base who live in East Bristol to get a bus into town and then another one back out again because they don't do cross city buses and it's incredibly expensive.
So, of course, people are not going to take the bus. You know, this is about structural change at a kind of governmental level.
At a high level. It's about structural change at the club level. And then it's about the contribution we can all make by shifting and changing some of our behaviours. Well, what do you think are the most important things?
Yeah, I don't disagree with anything David just said that I think are that the most important things and are thinking about when I was growing up and had a season ticket at Cambridge, when they get them for 40 quid from the 16th, it was brilliant. But I had I had a Saturday job in a pub and then I had to get the bus to the ground and it was one bus an hour. And I would say maybe two or three times of yeah, maybe two or three times out of five.
It just didn't come. It didn't come in. So I'd go. Pleading home to my mum is the most pathetic experience. I was like, please, can you drive me into the to the ground. But that's the reality. Like football isn't living in a vacuum that what football has to do on climate change is in so many ways just what needs to happen in society. We need brilliant public transport. We need cheap, reliable public transport. That's got to be clean as well.
But we can't just expect clubs and grounds to sort of have this weirdly separate approach to the problem.
And I also agree with with David, a hundred percent that, like football needs to lead, like this would be a brilliant thing for people to get out in front of, you know, not to be reacting to the rest of society and not be dragging its feet and trying to catch up, like get out there and lead. Because to be honest, politicians, the UN political parties, they're they're nowhere near where we need to be. So, you know, setting targets according to what's been agreed, the Paris climate summit five years ago, that that's not enough.
We need to go faster and and further in talking about 2050 is is too far away. What matters is what happens in the next five, ten years, though.
Yeah, I think I think we're getting our head. Trying to own this issue and make it like a real badge of honour would be amazing, though. Yeah, I don't think the UN are out of touch. I don't think that talking about 2050, they're talking about 10 years to save the planet. That's science driven. As David says, we've got to follow the science. The pandemic taught us that. I thought David said he'd drop cynicism 30 years ago or after 30 years of it.
But he but he led with some great cynicism about the year end support for Climate Action Programme, which was, I found a little bit disappointing only because it's such a great initiative and it's kind of, you know, brand new. And the UN is making a difference here. And it's not just about getting sports clubs to sort themselves out. It's about reaching the fan base with that information. Because the thing we haven't talked about on this podcast yet today is the platform that football and sport has, the ability it has to influence the lives of ordinary people.
And and as as was just said, football doesn't live in a bubble. Public transport is an issue for the whole of our world, really. The other important part, that bubble that we don't live in is the general population. And we have to get them to understand what the issues are, what the changes are that they can make and make accessible for them. And that's what this UN support for climate action programme is about and I think is a good thing.
And I think it's easy to point to football and say you're being a bit slow and, you know, you should be leading and stuff like that. And, you know, I go along with it. But I don't think football is particularly behind the curve. If you look at our world, society, industry, businesses, that kind of stuff, you know, I think is somewhere in the middle and not at the front, not at the back.
But it has a massive role that it could play because billions of people are sports fans. And if we can reach them through the medium of sport, we can get them to change their lives. We found that at first Queenslander's massively positive about the whole thing. I think you and I are in the right place on this as they are with the global climate targets.
David, how is tale's answer just then affected your cynicism ometer? I'm not cynical at all about the UN framework. I think it's a fabulous thing. And I've written on a number of occasions and spoken to that effect. I do think it still is for the most part, looking at 2050. It isn't addressing the sponsorship issue yet. There are weaknesses in it. I'm not against it. I think it's a good thing every single sporting organisation in the world should sign up.
It should be stricter. And I do think if football is and sport is to have that catalytic effect, then it has to really be pushing the envelope. And that means, you know, trying to be carbon zero by 20 by 2030, addressing your spectator numbers. So I'm not against I'm with Dale. I just want to encourage people to be more ambitious. And I think, you know, football in particular is a rare place, which is where people experience the emotional kind of reality of last minute turnarounds, because that's what we're looking here.
I mean, forgive the cliche, but like we're seriously in extra time, folks like and there's not going to be much injury time either. And the bench isn't great. You know, we need to believe that actually sudden large scale change is possible and people struggle with that and we all struggle with that. And football is a place where you actually experience it. I mean, did you watch the second semi-final? I thought I mean, twenty nine.
Yeah, I was going around the room, my big team to win things. Yeah.
I mean, that's, you know, it is slightly corny, but it's a rare place. People really do experience something profound about the possibility of change, about the possibility of collective endeavour, you know, because sport like dealing with climate change, football, it's a team game. We've got to do this together.
We've got to rely on Lucas Mora to save us all. Barry, you wanted to come in?
Well, I was just going to say, football fans don't mind change, I think, as long as it benefits them in a positive way. But looking at this, you know, I can foresee a problem where fans will will mull over what's being said and go, well, if I get on board with this, there will be possibly less games. I will be discouraged from travelling to watch my team play away from home or in Europe. And those are things sacrifices I'm not prepared to make.
I mean, I think it's a really good point, Barrie. And it's not just about football fans. This is like everybody's facing those kind of consumption choices, those of us who are lucky enough to have enough wealth to make those choices. Yeah, that's coming down the line. It may be. I don't think that's where we need to start. I think we can start by saying, OK, we need better public transport. We need to offset the carbon costs of the travel that we do have Alla UAFA or CATSA, twenty, twenty two and maybe five or ten years down the line.
We'll see what the climate crisis looks like. Maybe there won't be room for us all for that level of mass transportation. You know, maybe we don't know yet. So I don't think we have to jump to conclusions, but I think we are they are difficult conversations. It may not be possible 20, 30 years down the line, but we have to start somewhere and we can start with the easy. There's a lot of easy stuff to do.
As Dale said, you know, 70 percent of it could be dealt with. It certainly by big Premier League clubs just like that.
Yeah, starting somewhere is what I wanted to make, actually, in response to what David said before, you know, the kind of let's call it mild criticism of the UN programme. Lowest common denominator, I think, is one way that he did describe it. But to say that it doesn't go far enough is not tough enough on that kind of stuff. And I get that. But I was also in the room when when this was being formed.
The View was very much that it had to be accessible, not put off sports organisations. If you look too tough, then people would enjoy getting them to join is the first important step. And then getting them to do something can follow that. And I think it's the same with the public as well. You know, if we make this look like an impossible journey or transformation that they have to make of their lifestyles, it puts people off. You know, it's like veganism, you know, is a term that used to sound like some kind of crazy cult.
And the idea that you have to give up everything from animals on day one puts a lot of people off. But I don't take that approach myself. I think it's important just to get going, you know, start down the road, miss out a few meals with meat and miss out a few days. And before you know it, you know you're on your way. I think the really important thing is to just get started, because too often people are put off by the absolutism that you don't find on social media, for example, the kind of.
Yes, but what about this and what about that? And the stuff that we can't deal with today? We shouldn't sweat like flying, because ten years from now there are electric planes in the sky and will look differently at international football competitions because fans will be able to get there with a zero carbon footprint that's changing in the background.
Yeah, we live in a high carbon extractive society, economy, world. Like we can't pretend that we don't know. Everything we do in our daily lives is at the moment is often, you know, quite high carbon. And obviously there's a spectrum there. Things you can you can do. And as David said, if you've got the luxury of choice and a bit of cash, you can probably do more things at the moment. But let's not forget that, like what needs to change is kind of everything and and only wants that systemic change has happened.
Can we actually start to make choices which are easier and a lot greener? And that systemic change has to happen when the people in power make decisions that they might feel fine, uncomfortable, they've got to take responsibility for. And that's, I think, what I find a little bit frustrating with it's not just a football climate debate, but the climate debate more broadly is that these you know, BP famously started it with a kind of they invented the idea of the personal carbon footprint.
They got everyone talking about what we can do and bringing kind of personal morality into it. You know, I am I am I driving too much? Am I paying too much for me?
And it's like your BP, your BP. Don't tell us what to do. And it's you know, we've got a similar sort of thing here. We need these clubs who are fantastically rich institutions, FIFA and all the rest of it raking in cash.
They're the people with power. They've got a lead from the front before we start feeling guilty about or, you know, troubled by the choices that we've got to make.
Karski a question that about regionalising leagues one and two to cut down travel.
You mean as in would I be in favour of. Yeah. No, I wouldn't actually and I think, you know, I'd refer back to at least some of David's statistics around the carbon content of travel as an example of why I don't think it's it's an important thing to do or valuable thing to do. I think we'd lose more than we gain that way by regionalising leaks, one or two.
Tim Walters wrote a piece in the blizzard where he suggested that pretty much the only piece I could find about sort of climate change.
Well, one of the only ones suggested the scheduling mayhem caused by the pandemic gives us an opportunity to reimagine the football calendar. He tweeted us to say, I'm excited you're having this conversation. I'm hopeful you'll discuss the idea of playing much less football, because even if the game does absolutely everything else, right, there's no way it can get to where it needs to be otherwise.
I know, Barry, you'd love there to be a bit less, but why is that? It's interesting you talking about, you know, making the changes sort of acceptable to fans.
I think a lot of fans would find that hard. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. But just to make a good point there, David, depends what he means by less football.
And again, it all depends.
Sorry. One of the ideas he mooted was playing the season over two years, basically.
So, OK, I mean, two guys, one thing asking people to take the bus. It's another thing to ask them to expect to see that over two years. That's going to be a very a very difficult sell. Um, I think there probably is a bit too much football in the commercial world myself. I mean, I could live without and I say this, you know, as a part time Spurs fan, the league Cariboo Cup, no problem, is that disappeared off the calendar, at least, let's say the final day be a problem.
Well, exactly. And I can watch them lose another one like I did the last time. Right. So we could just cut we could cut out the middleman and just get rid of the tournament altogether. Um, I think further down the line, this is a conversation we may have to have about how much there is. But I think because the overwhelming amount of carbon is generated by people going to the stadium, that's not the way fans. It's not the travel of teams.
You know, if we had a decent public transport system in this country and, you know, Copenhagen level of kind of cycling and walking, it just wouldn't be a problem. We were playing more football because we wouldn't be producing such an enormous amount of carbon every time if we weren't eating loads of slightly dodgy me pies, football, you know, and we were eating really delicious hummus and falafel wraps. It wouldn't be a problem if we were playing more football.
So it's not the amount of football, it's the amount of carbon per game being burnt. That seems to me the issue.
Finally, can I ask what what should people listening to this who love football, who either go or watch in the pub when are allowed in or watch on TV? Not what? What should they be doing? I'll start with you, Ollie.
They should support that. And definitely that's why, you know, there's been some amazing, amazing examples recently of football and footballers leading the charge on social change. I look at Megan Rapinoe, look at Marcus Rashford.
And I think that should just kind of give us all hope that this is an incredibly powerful sport, an incredibly powerful actor in in society and in in culture.
And so like pushing our clubs and pushing our teams, they're not even pushing, just gently asking, you know, what what is it you're doing? And we want you to do this stuff. You know, we want a habitable planet. We want a brilliant public transport system. We want to be able to keep coming to to watch the games and getting everything that we get from them. You know what what are you doing to help us do that in a in a kind of climate friendly way?
I think just asking the question is, is is a great start. I think there's a lot to be said. We've talked about this on on our podcast on sustainable.
There's a lot to be said for the social cohesion that comes from just going to a match and like finding your tribe and finding groups of people who are not the same as you, because we're all we're all set in. Our social bubble is an ever, ever narrowing social bubbles. And I think if it was one of those rare occasions where you're mixing with people who aren't all the same as you and have different opinions, but you're all unified around and this kind of desperation for you to stick in the back of the net.
So, yeah, it's brilliant. Just keep keep going to football, keep embracing the joy and meaning that it brings to our lives. And because we're going to need a lot of that in the coming days and the pain it brings to our lives as well.
And the pain.
Yeah, I'm getting a bit drunk on this season. I'm forgetting. Oh, I can't do I can't honestly. I'd rather be where I find the pain of it. I find the stress of it too much detail. What would you what would you recommend to to people.
Yeah, there's a lot to agree with. I've always said I think primarily I would say to sports fans. Football fans. Get in touch with your club and let them know what it is you want. I mean, lobby for changes in the menu. You know, let's let's get more vegan stuff on the menu. We've seen this work. Fans of other clubs have come to full screen, gone back home, lobbied their own clubs, and they put on vegan options some kind of grassroots fan power.
You know, I think and if if clubs feel that from the bottom and they also see from the top that they need to compete with other clubs because they are adopting these measures and it's the perfect sandwich for them to be in a David.
Well, the first thing if I'm allowed a bit of advertising is that I am the chair of trustees of a newly formed NGO called Football for Future. And you can find football for future dog on the Internet and also on Instagram and all the usual places. So go and take a look at that. Websites hoping to be the ticket out of sustainability in in British football. Plenty of information educate oneself. And I think the second thing I just say to everyone is certainly from where I'm coming from.
And I think the sort of ties to Dales idea that, you know, the green alternative needs to be at least as good, if not better, of what we had is, you know, this this debate is not about trying to punish people. It's about trying to secure the future of something that we love. You know, for me, you know, the definition of the good life definitely includes being able to go and see and support Bristol Rovers.
But if we want that, you know, if we are the custodians of this sport, we want this to be around in 20, 30 years. We have to make a contribution now. It's not about punishment. It's about preserving something beautiful for the future. And yes, even Bristol Rovers can be beautiful.
And Ollie, you said probably the greenest football of all is just having a kick about with your mates in the park. Yeah, exactly.
You know, we're always kind of wondering whether is it green is to recycle or drive an electric car or whatever. But I can't think of many things greener than just going and having a kick around. Like is what a brilliant kind of low carbon fun and what a normal thing to do. And I think that's really important to remember that lots of kind of really normal fun stuff is green. You don't just have to kind of budgeters green. And that's I guess that's another reason why we need investment in the grassroots and we need our parks to be well maintained.
We need running trucks and outdoor gyms and all of that properly, properly financed and protected, because that's a really kind of low carbon way to to live and to to have fun.
When I'm chatting to my team-mates before the game, I think our first game back is April, the third way. It's civil service. And just in the huddle, you know, instead of they don't fucking want it, I'll say it's time for some low carbon fun lads.
Really low carbon said.
Listen, thank you so much for coming on. I think it's been really good. I'd love to do it again in, you know, in a few months or years time just to come back and find out how far we've got. If you don't do that, that would be brilliant. But for the time being. Dale, thanks for your time. A pleasure. It was great fun. Thank you, David.
Yeah. Thank you so much for doing this really, really brilliantly. You've done it. Thank you.
No worries and cheers. Thanks a lot, Ed. Brilliant. That is happening as always.
Barrie, thanks for being here. Yes, I was a huge help. You know, you always are, Barry. You know that. We'll be back on Friday after all the international.
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