BASIS CEO Russell Seymour quoted in a Jack Pitt-Brooke’s wide ranging report for The Athletic about climate change, sustainability and football
Liverpool have already played 36 games this season and if they keep winning in the FA Cup and Champions League — and you would not bet against them — the Istanbul final in May will be their 64th. Last season, Manchester City went out of Europe earlier than expected and still played 61.
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have both spoken about the schedule but they are shouting at the incoming tide.
Nobody has ever made money by putting on fewer football matches. The global game is growing, tournaments are expanding and are being held further and further afield. It raises the question of whether football is doing enough, or even doing anything, to measure, limit or offset its carbon footprint.
Because the climate crisis is already impacting football, whether football wants to know or not.
Tadcaster Albion know about the cost of climate change: roughly £200,000. They play in the Northern Premier League Division One North West but, more importantly, they play on a floodplain, by the banks of the River Wharfe. They know that they have to be prepared for flooding and their clubhouse is raised two and a half feet off the ground.
Even then, they could do nothing to prepare for the flooding that devastated the Yorkshire town in late 2015. Eight feet of water turned their stadium into an open-air swimming pool, with water up to the crossbars. It came over the flood doors, over the windowsills, up through the floor and into the club house, which had to be fully re-wired. The water even damaged the floodlights. Tadcaster were homeless for weeks, playing home games at Garforth Town and Selby Town, and the eventual bill came to £200,000. The club can no longer get flood insurance.
This is an extreme example but not a unique one.
Ultimately, this is a problem of politics. There is no real pressure on clubs to behave sustainably beyond the general public and the pressure that they put on themselves. Not from the FA or the Premier League and certainly not from UEFA or FIFA.
“I’m not aware of direct pressure on the clubs from above,” says Russell Seymour, chief executive of the British Association for Sustainable Sport [BASIS]. “This could be because of the politics of football where, in some ways, the big clubs hold more power than the governing bodies. So while there is growing understanding and enthusiasm from everyone, it’s difficult to make specific demands. And there is the issue of how the governing bodies would police it, and how they would enforce it. So it is something that is still treated as nice to have, rather than the absolute imperative it needs to be.”