As football clubs across the UK marked Green Football Weekend, we ask, is one weekend enough?

Green Football Weekend saw fans from the top 5 performing clubs score over 45,000 goals- representing ‘climate wins’. However, given the potential to go further and implement carbon reductions comparable to planting millions of trees, we ask, why just one weekend?
As football clubs across the UK marked Green Football Weekend, we ask, is one weekend enough?

Green Football Weekend: fans score green goals for their clubs

In a brand-new project, more than 80 football clubs are collaborating to address the climate crisis.  Clubs made their games "greener games" part of the Green Football Weekend, which took place from 3rd-5th February.  Some teams also wore green armbands to demonstrate their support for the fight against climate change. This comes at the conclusion of a 20-day campaign that began in January and allowed supporters to "score green goals" for their team by making environmentally responsible choices, such as eating a vegetarian meal, lowering the temperature of their heating, or even taking shorter showers.[i]

Green Football Weekend spokesperson Sarah Jacobs said:

In scoring green goals for their club, football fans have incredible power to help protect our world - and save money in the process. If the UK’s 36 million fans adopted three climate-friendly habits across the course of the 20-day tournament - reducing their shower time to four minutes, having two meat-free days per week and turning the thermostat down by 1 degree - fans could save more than 700 million kg CO2e, the equivalent of planting 11.78 million trees.”[ii]

The initiative taps into the concept that football clubs are well-placed to be a cultural touchpoint in order to expedite change. Because they are passionate and committed to their teams, fans respond favourably to matchday-based interventions (like reusable cups or less carbon-intensive matchday travel), and these changes can be applied to experiences outside of football.[iii] Furthermore, by translating the modification of climate-conscious behaviours into goals for a beloved club, individuals can incentivise their actions beyond the planet positives and generate a sense of pride that is born from the intrinsic competition within football. This notion has been successful in the case of Green Football Weekend and the preceding days of action, with the top 5 performing teams scoring 45,180 goals as of the 6th of February.[iv]

Green Football Weekend League Table

Source: Green Football Weekend

This powerful representation of how football can motivate fans to make positive choices should stand separate from the forthcoming criticism. The good that has been undertaken is not washed away by the desire for further steps. With that caveat outlined, it should be said that there remains a question of whether one weekend is enough. Using the Wayback Machine, which captures previous versions of websites, ZCA has identified that West Ham fans rose from 10th place with 2282 goals to 5th place with 4066 from the 5th of February to the 6th. This follows the closure of the weekend’s footballing action, with many televised games on Sky being trailed and preceded by short calls to action that outline how much of an impact the UK’s millions of football fans could have should they make more environmentally minded choices. The numbers at the extremes of potential are staggering, with projections that small changes like turning a thermostat down by 1 degree, having two plant-based meals a week or taking a shorter shower could see a carbon reduction equivalent to the planting of 11.78 million trees.[v] It is perhaps this exposure that led to such a climb up the table for West Ham fans, so why must the exposure end after one weekend?

Staying on the ball when it comes to the climate crisis

Every football fan is different, but most will be able to recall that one game, that one game that lit the football fanatic spark, that one game that they may go as far as to compare to the birth of their children. Imagine, then, that in each of these victories that live long in the memory, if instead of 90 minutes or more of dedication, the players on the pitch put the effort in for only around 2 minutes and 20 seconds. That is what one weekend of exposure equates to when viewed in the context of a 38-game premier league season.

When it comes to change management, the validity of the approach of Green Football Weekend meets many key criteria. Tying football to climate action does give more individuals a stake in the change underway; it also utilises influencers rather than just leaders. These are two key facets of the WEF’s suggestion for sustainable change management, but there is a next step also put forward that the footballing powers that be may benefit from remembering. Change must be embodied; it cannot just be pinned on like a badge once a year if any long-term shifts in behaviour are to be wrought.[vi]

As the power of sport, specifically football, is increasingly realised as a tool to affect change to fight the climate crisis, it must become more than a yearly gimmick, albeit a mightily effective one. 


[i] Eurosport- Clubs and fans working together towards climate action

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Scope F- Maximising sport’s positive impact on carbon emissions

[iv] Green Football Weekend- Score green goals for your club

[v] Sky Sports- The Green Football Weekend: How Sky Sports is helping to unleash the power of football to tackle climate change

[vi] WEF- We need a new, sustainable approach to change management


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