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As part of my dissertation research project at London South Bank University, I investigated the current measures being taken by UK sporting associations and individual clubs to reduce energy use. Through analysis of published and gathered data was found to account for 0.49% of the financial outgoings of a typical English football club.
With such a small percentage of financial resources going towards HVAC energy consumption, it is understandable that energy costs cannot be at the forefront of UK clubs’ financial management.
However, the finances, brand awareness and infrastructure within high-profile sports franchises still presents an opportunity to drive direct energy consumption and environmental impact down. Additionally, larger clubs that take the lead in this field will inspire smaller clubs, the viewing public and other industries to bring about change through the implementation of managerial procedures and investment in sustainable technology.
There are several football clubs that issue annual Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) reports which contain some elements of energy and waste reduction and describe steps being made to reduce their environmental impact. At present, CSR is wide spread within all major US sports leagues, but this has not always been the case. 10 to 15 years ago it was a rarity, with some academics in the field of sports management calling for advances in this area. North American universities in particular are well placed to analyse the benefits of sustainable attitudes in sports stadia management due to 8 of the 10 largest stadiums in the world being university owned, with most having professional sports franchises as tenants. As a result most universities have sports management departments that lead the field in the research and enforcement of such attitudes and recently several academic papers and industry journals have praised the uptake of CSR across North American sport.
Although CSR reporting is gaining traction, currently the organizations that do report on these issues tend to only be the richest clubs or those with a stable financial position in regards to long term ownership. Maintaining financial stability and club investments tend to concentrate only on short term goals like immediate survival or promotion within their association’s league structure.
In order for sustainability to have any real effect within these organizations, stakeholders need to set long term reduction targets and efficiency goals. CSR reporting is an excellent place to start because it puts in place methods for measuring, reporting and managing energy consumption. But like the US major leagues this needs to be a top down approach with sports associations like the English Football Association (The FA), Rugby Football Union (RFU) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) taking the lead on this and making themselves fully accountable via CSR as well as their members, only then will we see the wide range of benefits that such attitudes bring with them.
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