Exeter, Devon UK • Jul 19, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home SportGlobal It’s an 8 pointer – the battle to become the Premier League’s most sustainable club

It’s an 8 pointer – the battle to become the Premier League’s most sustainable club

Print Sport Editor Joel Edwards takes a look at the environmental schemes of each Premier League club and how they would finish in a sustainable league table.
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(Image: Pixabay)

Print Sport Editor Joel Edwards takes a look at the environmental schemes of each Premier League club and how they would finish in a sustainable league table.

There has been much discussion recently about the best way to complete the seasons of various sporting leagues. This conundrum, combined with reports highlighting predicted record drops in carbon emissions this year and the news that the Premier League is being played to conclusion, led me to question how the table of England’s top flight would shape up if the league was decided not by points for wins and draws but rather points for sustainability and environmentally conscious measures. Would Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool still be a dominating force at the top of the table when the defensive stability and communication of Van Dijk is replaced with the club’s communication and engagement on sustainability? Could Arsenal recapture a glimpse of their glory days when their results are based on the performance of plant-based food rather than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Would Southampton, the Premier League’s most efficient spenders, be breaking into the top half of the table if they gained points for their energy and water efficiency?

The United Nations-backed Sport Positive Summit, who are scheduled to meet at Wembley in October 2020, compiled research into the sustainability of all 20 Premier League clubs based upon initiatives and schemes that fell into 8 categories. Each club was asked to provide evidence of activities designed to maintain or improve: clean energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, single use plastic reduction or removal, waste management, water efficiency, plant-based or low-carbon food options and finally efforts to communicate these schemes and initiatives to the supporters and engage with the fan bases. I have decided, in order to differentiate between the teams with the same number of categories fulfilled, to award bonus points to each team who have schemes, with the most awarded to the most successful and innovative initiatives.     

Relegation

To maintain some form of suspense, I have decided to start with the sustainability relegation battle. Unfortunately, the miracles Roy Hodgson has been able to oversee on the pitch have not been reproduced off the pitch, resulting in Crystal Palace forming the base of the sustainability table. Only at the trial stage of recycling bins at Selhurst Park and a failure to provide evidence or information about clean energy, water efficiency or their communication strategy, Crystal Palace are the least sustainable Premier League club. Joining them in the would-be sustainability championship next year are Southampton and Norwich. Southampton, the first club in Europe to have an LED lit stadium, are one of the best in the top flight at energy efficiency but failed to provide information about clean energy and water efficiency, and the Canaries have no plant-based food options at Carrow Road in addition to no information on the club’s website.      

Mid Table

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth are in a far too familiar precarious position near the foot of the table but are saved by excellent recycling schemes and vegan food options in addition to all their main produce providers coming from within a 25 mile radius of the Vitality Stadium. Liverpool and Chelsea are on unfamiliar terrain placing 12th and 16th respectively, with Leicester, Burnley and the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers making up the places in between. Sheffield United, Everton, Watford and Aston Villa all perform solidly to finish 8th through to 11th, positions each of these clubs would take, other than perhaps the Blades, over their current Premier League standings.

Europe

Finishing 7th, in a potential European spot on the sustainability table, are West Ham. Despite having no stand out performances in any of the categories, the hammers have a solid team game that allow for a solid sustainable season. Brighton’s commitment to water efficiency, free bus and rail travel and solar panels on their training ground propel them into an unchartered 6th place, just pipped to fifth by the self-declared first ‘carbon positive’ club Newcastle. The Magpies, who invest in schemes such as tree planting to offset their carbon footprint, also have solar panels on their training ground and their combined heat and power (CHP) has resulted in saving 390t of CO2.

Places in the sustainable Champions League are held by North London and Manchester derby rivals. Arsenal’s strong performance in the clean energy and communication categories, as well as their SRA approved restaurant, allow them to beat their fierce rivals Tottenham into 3rd. Experiencing their first taste of a top 4 spot since 2016, Arsenal are beaten by both Manchester clubs however it is a blast from the past that clinches the title. The blue half of Manchester is beaten by the red in the table for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Manchester City do some truly great work towards their sustainability, including housing wildlife corridors in their academy building, but are defeated by the closest of margins, reminiscent of the 2011/12 title race. However, this time it is Manchester United who have come out on top.   

The final sustainable Premier League table makes great reading for fans of Manchester United

Champions

Reigning champions of the sustainability Premier League table are Manchester United. The dizzying heights of the top of the top flight are perhaps a little scary for fans of the Red Devils, having not ascended for the top for what must feel like so long. Their Energy & Carbon Reduction Programme has achieved a 31% reduction in energy use, a Cycle to Work scheme has been implemented for staff, reducing and spreading the cost of purchasing a bike and accessories, and their ‘Reds Go Green’ scheme has ensured that zero waste goes to landfill, non-recyclables are used for energy and waste food is composted. Not only do they have an Environment and Sustainability page on their club website, they also have a dedicated internal website for staff where all environmental policies and initiatives are promoted. Their work on each category is evocative of a bygone era at Old Trafford. Their vegan food options are as creative as Paul Scholes, their approach the single use plastic and waste as no-nonsense as Roy Keane, their carbon reduction as constant as the magic in David Beckham’s right foot and their energy as efficient as Michael Carrick.

Despite their recent shortcomings on the pitch and increasingly questionable managerial choices, Manchester United lead the way in sustainability, providing an example that hopefully all other clubs, as well as the public at home, will start to follow in order to help protect our planet.   

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