The sports industry like other sectors is realising the significance of sustainability. Sports organisations have recently turned their attention to the adoption of green practices aimed at reducing their environmental impact. In particular, many football organisations have adopted green initiatives to reduce the negative effects of their activities on the environment. However, such initiatives are rarely introduced at the grassroots level. In light of the European Erasmus+ project named GOALS, a survey was created to assess the starting level of awareness regarding environmental protection in the targeted sport organisations. The survey aims to investigate the role of grassroots football clubs in shaping environmental sustainability.
The report is based on data obtained through a survey campaign in six European countries (Portugal, Romania, Kosovo, Ireland, Italy and Norway), conducted in 2021. A total of 585 survey questionnaires were collected throughout the campaign. The majority (67%) were smaller clubs, with less than 5 employees on the payroll, while 71% has more than 11 volunteers working with the clubs.
From the participating clubs, nearly 60% plays more than 100 matches per season with an average amount of players being over 120 (56%). To accommodate the players, 95% of the participating clubs had less than 5 football pitches available.
The survey analysed the implementation of environmental practices by grassroot football clubs. They were asked whether they agree or disagree on the adoption of environmental practices provided by the organization. The results are extremely heterogeneously. Nonetheless, “producing renewable energy” is the less adopted practice, while “reducing traffic using a bus of the club for away matches” is the most common. These results can be interpreted as both a diffusion of environmental practices in the amateur world and a shortage of understanding and awareness of the real environmental impact of a football match and that this should be raised.
The perception of amateur clubs of the benefits created by implementing environmental practices was also investigated in the survey. These benefits were divided in terms of the reputational performance and the economic performance of grassroots football clubs. More than half of respondents confirmed that their reputation would increase thanks to the adoption of green practices. However, the respondents highlight that the organization’s reputation would improve in relation mostly to direct stakeholders. According to grassroots football clubs, other organisations or stakeholders would be less influenced.
“Almost 40% of the respondents agree that implementing environmental practices would reduce their internal costs.”
Economic benefits in terms of sponsorships revenue, merchandising sales or subscriptions and tickets sales are less seen.
Lastly, the survey investigated the drivers and barriers of Environmental Management in grassroots football. Leaving an environment without pollution to the future generations is, by far, the most important driver.
Football clubs can play a vital role in reducing the environmental impact of football. However, there are barriers for implementing environmental practices. The importance of each barrier was analysed in the survey. The analysis indicates an important role for public authorities and National Football Associations.
In general, the conclusion is that environmental knowledge is in the earlier phases of the curve. However, most of the respondents have a concrete concern about environmental issues. The role of grassroots football clubs in tackling environmental issues must not be underestimated. In the upcoming months, the GOALS project will enhance the knowledge and progress in the area of sustainability through events, webinars and other initiatives.