As professional sports teams switch to sustainable energy sources, they have begun examining the benefits of renewable energy and green technology. Much of these sustainability efforts center around facilities, particularly stadiums for gamedays.
One English soccer club, Tottenham Hotspur FC, or Spurs, has emerged as one of the greenest sports organizations in the world. They even hosted matches without producing a single CO2 emission.
In September 2021, Spurs faced off against rivals Chelsea in a match designed to promote climate change education and offset carbon emissions generated by gameday energy use. Dubbed Game Zero by Tottenham executives, all aspects of the event correlated with a sustainable goal in mind.
Beyond basic sustainability measures like kits and training gear made from recycled materials, the club encouraged fans to travel by public transportation or clean vehicles.
In turn, it used biofuels for the team bus, added LED lighting for the stadium, and provided a 94% plant-based menu at concession stands.
All these measures reduced carbon emissions extensively. A domino effect happened with less reliance on fossil fuels for travel for fans and players and no emissions generated from food waste or transport. The match produced little to no greenhouse gas emissions — a world first.
In conjunction with British sports broadcasting outlet Sky Sports, a study was conducted on Game Zero to measure its effectiveness and whether the rest of the Premier League, the soccer league Spurs and Chelsea play in, could follow suit. Sky’s findings focused on what could be changed within matchday parameters, such as LED lighting and using biofuels for buses. For any emissions produced outside gameday travel or experience, a reforestation effort was carried out in East Africa to offset the emissions.
“We are extremely proud to have been involved with Game Zero, working alongside Sky to utilize our collective platforms and show leadership on a key issue that is affecting us all,” said Daniel Levy, Tottenham chairman. “We thank our fans for their support of the initiative and taking such positive actions around the matchday.”
These efforts landed the team the honor of being a signatory for the U.N. Sports for Climate Action Framework, which supports and guides sports organizations globally to achieve climate conservation goals.
On top of that, the club was named the greenest Premier League Club in 2021 for 100% sustainable energy operations at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. This award was a huge honor for the club as it aims to reduce emission outputs by half its original rate by 2030.
While Game Zero was a push to make professional sports events more sustainable, challenges remain. It might have worked well due to the proximity of Spurs to local London rivals Chelsea; however, aviation travel is still required for other destinations, whether in England or other European cities. Also, even with a solid reforestation campaign to offset carbon emissions, those trees planted may not reach full maturity to where they could sequester carbon effectively.
Nevertheless, Spurs moved the needle for soccer teams across England and Europe to act similarly. “The ability for sports to connect with people across so many different demographics makes it really unique, as this vehicle to bring people together in a united fight for something [is one] that very few, potentially no industry, is able to do,” said Kristin Hanczor, senior partnership manager at the Green Sports Alliance.
More teams are expected to follow Tottenham’s efforts to varying degrees, but it only takes one to start the wave of sustainable matches in England’s elite soccer league.