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How Football Is Driving Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Targets

Have you ever wondered how the world’s sports arenas are powered? As stadia become more and more sophisticated, one would presume that the amount of energy needed to keep them running has increased also and they would be right. Thankfully, football stadiums around the world are leading the charge towards sustainability goals, as we explore in this intriguing Love Energy Savings Guide.

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The majority of the world’s superpowers are now agreed on the fact that we need to start taking control of our renewable energy situation and safeguard the future of generations to come. Fossil fuels are not going to be around much longer and if we do not lower our consumption and find energy sources which are sustainable, we will be in more than a spot of bother. As one of the planet’s biggest pastimes and indeed businesses, sport has a huge role to play. Not only are stadium’s captive audiences but sport also engages young people, which could be crucial when it comes to keeping renewable energy initiatives going well into the future.

How Much Energy Does a Sports Venue Consume?

This question really is a “how long is a piece of string” scenario. Sports teams obviously vary in size and stature, from your local football teams such as Havant and Waterlooville and Chester City, to global brands such as the Dallas Cowboys or Real Madrid. However, when you start to look at some of the larger outfits, the figures can be rather startling.

For instance, one of the teams mentioned above hit the press just a few years ago for using more electricity than an entire African country. Hard to believe isn’t it? According to CBS Sports, the Dallas Cowboys do indeed use more electricity than a nation with a population of more than 4 million people and is 43,000 square miles in size. With many deprived nations struggling to deal with demand for energy, it was not surprising to see many up in arms at the fact that this can be easily found to accommodate a game of American Football.

“The AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas can consume up to 10 megawatts of energy in a day whereas Liberia struggles to pump even a third of that into their grid.”

What should be noted is that due to the nature of the American Football season, around eight home games occur every season so the year round consumption will not be indicative of the above consumption rates. The stadium does host other events such as concerts and exhibitions.

How Are Sports Teams Combatting The Issue?

What is clear from the example of the Dallas Cowboys is that sports can be extremely thirsty when it comes to energy consumption, especially with regards to electricity. Add to the obvious factors such as lighting, video walls, refreshments and hospitality and you have evens which need a constant stream of gas and electricity.

Luckily, many sports teams around the world have come up with a range of pioneering concepts which can not only reduce the need for so much power, but also help to generate green energy. You may well have read our articles regarding exciting initiatives from Warwickshire County Cricket Club and Southampton FC; well these have been taken to the next level by clubs as far afield as Brazil.

The Greening of Football

Aside from often extortionate rent, sports clubs have all sorts of other overheads such as player wages, water, energy and materials. This has spurred some clubs on to look for ways to help promote sustainability through their teams and venues. It seems fitting that Brazil, surely the game’s most pioneering nation in terms of skill and passion; has been one of the first to put these new concepts into practice.

Samba Storing Tiles

A far cry it may be from the stories of Brazilian superstars learning their skills in the slums of Rio or Sao Paulo but Pavegen have come up with perhaps the more prudent of football’s sustainability projects.

This renewable energy option involves power storing tiles, which sit just underneath (56mm) the astroturf pitch in Morro da Mineira, Rio de Janiero. Through a system of kinetic harvesting, every step made by any player on the pitch is converted into energy. The average footstep creates around 5 watts per second and the system is complemented by solar panels, which help to provide the necessary lighting; which can be up to ten hours a night. The system has been funded by Shell and is the biggest and best example of energy storing tiles anywhere in the world at present, made all the more appealing by the fact that the more people play the beautiful game, the more energy is created.

The kinetic, player powered football pitch has even been championed by all-time record goal scorer Pele, really emphasising the support the project has back in Brazil.

Forest Green Rovers

Closer to home, Forest Green Rovers may not be in the upper echelons of the football league, but their energy efficiency efforts are second to none here in the UK.

One of the few teams to hail from Gloucestershire, Forest Green are well and truly living up to their name as the most pro-active team in the UK in terms of sustainability. They are the only team with a 100% organic pitch and have eliminated nitrogen based fertilisers from their ground keeping efforts.

They now use products which use a range of organic materials such as compost tea and coconut wetting agents instead to remarkable effect. Charcoal is also added to the base of the pitch for fungus and bacteria in order to maintain a natural feel. Anyone who has been to the ground to see the club’s Vanarama Conference efforts will know that the results have been fantastic.

The club is also sponsored by ecotricity, an energy supplier with renewables at the heart of its ethos. This is due to the firm’s green energy tycoon, Dale Vincent, taking the club over in 2010. He has launched a range of initiatives at the club such as the banning of red meat and even held the word’s first ever vegan match against Lincoln City in November 2014.

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Forest Green’s ground, The New Lawn, also used 170 photovoltaic solar panels to generate energy, which help to offset any costs the club have accrued as a result of going organic. An autonomously driven mower which fertilises the pitch as it mows and the washing of the club’s kit with phosphate free washing detergent really underline Forest Green Rovers’ position as the UK’s organic football champions, how long will it be before more teams follow suit?

Recycling Tyred Turf

Both Real Madrid and Manchester United have been setting standards when it comes to recycled training pitches of late. The former have been using 11 training pitches created with new generation turf from Dutch company Desso which never needs to be mown, watered or fertilised. The cradle to cradle pioneers have vowed to make these facilities available to schools and sports clubs in the future, which will give sustainability a huge boost.

Manchester United on the other hand, have been using training pitches made from old recycled tyres from Indian-based firm Apollo. The pitch at their Old Trafford complex is made from 10 tonnes of recycled rubber, which is around 2,200 tyres. The facility has been FIFA certified so completely safe to use and is also open to the Manchester community.

FC Bayern Munich Seeing the Light

It isn’t just Southampton FC who have been experimenting with the idea of LED lighting at their stadium. The German champions and five time European Cup winners announced a deal with Philips just last year whereby the firm would become their “lighting partner”. 

The deal saw plans for 380,000 ultra-efficient LED lights to be installed at the Allianz Arena, which would allow for 16 million colours, as opposed to the current palate of 3 to be emitted.

Not only will this allow for some quite breath-taking moods and shows to be created around the ground, but the LED lighting will also mean that the stadium will be 60% more energy efficient; this equates to a saving of 362 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Solar San Francisco

In contrast to the aforementioned case of the Dallas Cowboys, one NFL team takings its commitment to sustainability very seriously are the San Francisco 49ers. Indeed, before a ball had even been kicked, or thrown as the case may be, the 49ers had already taken home their first piece of silverware of the season; the LEED gold standard for sustainability.

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The Levi’s Stadium was only opened last July, costing a colossal $1.3 billion and boasts a 1,900 metre squared, 400 KW solar plant which provides the entirety of the venue’s energy requirements. The complex, situated in the city’s Santa Clara district is 68,500 in capacity and also have an impressive 2,500 metre squared roof garden. The ground also has added features such as a geothermal heat pump to transfer heat from the ground to heat their water and an irrigation system which can produce around 1,800 gallons of grey water every minute.


As one can see, there are some shining lights in the world of sport and sustainability and there will be more examples from other sports around the world; but there are also thousands of venues still contributing massively to our carbon footprint and not taking their responsibilities seriously. What is clear, is that there is a myriad of options available to sports team wanting to take control of their green energy and efficiency efforts. In time, it is hoped that your Bayern Munich, Forest Green Rovers and San Francisco 49ers will be spurring more teams on to help drive sustainability through their venues.