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Professional Soccer’s New Goal Is Sustainability

Vienna Reyes

Soccer, or football, is played and enjoyed worldwide. Much like other sports leagues in the U.S. and abroad, there has been an uptick in clubs and players getting involved with societal issues. Regarding awareness of changes to the climate and adapting to a sustainable lifestyle, club’s public relations and social media messaging haven’t been as strong as fans would like. However, that’s starting to change as more clubs have begun campaigns designed to educate fans and incentivize adopting sustainable practices. 

Let’s start with teams here in the U.S. While soccer isn’t the most-watched sport, its popularity continues to grow. The growing fan base has allowed Major League Soccer (MLS) teams to launch their sustainability promotions through events, offering prizes to fans for participating in the campaign. Inter Miami and Atlanta United made headlines with their respective sustainability events earlier this year. 

Inter Miami raised recycling awareness in partnership with Heineken USA and Cycle, a recycling and data company founded by University of Miami students. The club placed  Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) where fans can deposit any recyclable beverage receptacle in exchange for prizes all over Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium. Once someone puts the bottle or can into the machine, a QR code is available to scan. Fans only need to follow a few steps in an app to claim their reward or find out if they are instant winners. Prizes include packs of Heineken 0.0, stadium promotions, and team jerseys. With Inter Miami being a relatively new club, this fan engagement shows how the club is committed to connecting with patrons on environmental issues.

Photo Courtesy Greensportsalliance

Another American soccer club launching sustainability promotions is Atlanta United. Before the start of the new MLS season in February, the team hosted a party at Piedmont Park to celebrate their “Forest Green” kit, or uniform.

These kits will serve as a symbol of commitment to reforestation efforts in the greater Atlanta area. The dark green color mixed with a cool mint represents the trees planted around Atlanta — considered “a city in the forest” — and these words are printed on the jersey’s collar. The kits are also made out of 100% recycled materials. 

On top of this launch party, the club said it would host tree-planting volunteer events in conjunction with Trees Atlanta. If you thought that was a wonderful gesture, it gets better with Atlanta United sending QR codes to season ticket holders, and each scan of this code will donate $17 per holder to the tree replanting efforts sponsored by the club. Much like Inter Miami, Atlanta United is a new-ish team in the MLS, and this drive to promote sustainability has been well-received by fans. 

Photo Courtesy Greensportsalliance

MLS clubs are not alone in this sustainable movement. This past March, Real Betis of Seville, Spain, played in a sustainability awareness match entitled  “Forever Green”. Forever Green is a movement started by Betis fans and club executives designed to encourage more sustainable choices. This match offered discounted rates for electric bikes, scooters, and public transportation to get to Betis’s stadium. Betis and the away team, Athletic Bilbao, wore kits made from recycled materials and also received sneakers sustainably made by people with disabilities.

Money from online ticket purchases also went to a reforestation effort, and the team planted a tree outside the stadium to show its commitment. A grand gesture of inclusion coupled with a highly-coveted sustainability movement caught the attention of the Spanish soccer league LaLiga, who lauded it as a fantastic example of how the universal game is championing climate awareness.

Photo Courtesy Real Betis/Forever Green

These are only a few examples of professional soccer clubs connecting with fans concerned about a changing climate. More clubs across the globe can take inspiration from Miami, Atlanta, and Betis. Sports can be a powerful tool to raise awareness and get the public involved.

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