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“Unleashing the power of football to tackle climate change.”

Words by Abi Scaife

Here at Smiley News, we love to cover people harnessing the power of what they love for good. We’ve talked about fandoms for charitycosplaying for cancer - and now the football community is getting in on the action.

Green Football Weekend is helping football fans, players, teams and clubs unite for the planet. Celebrating their second year, they are encouraging people to find ways to engage in their favourite sport that doesn’t cost the earth.

We were able to chat with Richard Holmes, who has been closely involved with Green Football Weekend, to learn more about the initiative.

“The purpose of green football weekend is unleashing the power of football to tackle climate change,” explains Richard. “We bring players football clubs, broadcasters, leagues, fans and schools together to celebrate this annual moment of sustainability in football.”

This year is all about food for the Green Football Weekend - which takes place between the 2nd and 5th of February - and to that end, they have come up with a cookbook full of incredible vegetarian recipes. Donated by more than 70 football players, pundits, celebrity chefs, club nutritionists and football-loving personalities, the recipes help you take care of the climate whilst still enjoying match day.

All Smiles for Robbie Savage and Levi Roots at Green Football Weekend 2024 launch

Research performed by the University of Leeds in the name of Green Football Weekend found that 4,622,998kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions could be saved if everyone switched from a beef burger to a veggie burger this weekend. That’s the equivalent to taking 2,609 cars off the road for a full year.

We all know what it’s like at a sports match, indulging in a delicious, greasy, meaty burger - and that doesn’t need to disappear. It’s just that these statistics show what an incredible impact it can have on the environment if you just make an easy, and delicious, switch. Plus, climate change and the future of football have a lot more in common than you might think.

According to Green Football Weekend, 150,000 football matches are already cancelled every year due to the pitch being flooded. Plus, research says in the next three decades one quarter of English league football grounds will be at risk from flooding every season.

Obviously, that’s not ideal - but as we know climate change can be combatted, if we all pledge to getting involved. Not everyone has to be a Greta Thunberg - you don’t have to chain yourself to fences, glue yourself to roads or any of the other big-ticket protest items some people engage with.

Joe Cole and local school children take part in the Green Football Weekend Ready Veggie Cook Off Challenge

Instead, just by making a few changes in your daily life, that are healthy for yourself, as well as the planet, you can make a huge difference - and that’s what Green Football Weekend is all about.

To that end, they have collaborated with football clubs across the country to make it even easier for you to go green this weekend - whether you’re sat in stadiums, or watching from home.

“Loads of football clubs are [playing] what we call ‘greener games’ where they put an activation for fans,” says Richard. “There might be discount veggie food, free tasters, things like that. We've seen some clubs do free public transport.”

“There's a whole host of environmental elements within that matchday experience that fans will get to experience up and down the country.”

So, if you’re heading to a match in person this weekend, make sure to check and see what green elements are going on that you can get involved with!

The second element of the Green Football Weekend is their league - that’s right, a whole new football league for you to get into! And this time it’s not your team who are making the plays, but you and other fans across the country.

Robbie Savage with Fred The Red on the train with the Green Football Cup

“On the website, we've got the leaderboard where football clubs are ranked by how many goals their fans have scored,” explains Richard. “They can either score by pledging to take action, or by taking action giving evidence with a photo. We've got photos of people remembering their reusable bottles or walking or getting the bus instead of driving.”

As of noon on Friday 2nd Feb, Manchester United was winning in both the women’s and mens’ standings - but fans have until the 7th Feb to score goals for their teams.

“[It’s] incredible. We've got huge brands like ManU, some of the biggest clubs in the country taking part and doing loads of fantastic stuff, right down to non-League clubs,” says Richard. “We take another step back and we've got grassroots football clubs all over the country doing their bit.”

“It's really a campaign that gets everybody involved.”

You can find out more about the Green Football Weekend and how to get involved by going to their website, which you can find here. Make sure to pledge some green actions of your own and score goals for your team!

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

The Climate Coalition. This is the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change. Find out more and support them here.

Climate Reframe.  Climate Reframe is committed to supporting the climate and environment movement in its transformation towards greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). Find out more.

Every Can Counts. This is a not-for-profit recycling programme, encouraging people to recycle more often, to protect our planet. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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