Here are a few questions about professional football (or soccer to those in the USA) that have piqued my CSR interest recently and need answering.
• 29.9 million* people attended a professional game in the UK last season – That’s one hell of a carbon footprint. How big is it, who cares and what is being done?
• Football related media is now dominated by gambling, alcohol and fast food brands – Is it really the right image for its large impressionable younger audience?
• Financial sustainability – How has football dealt with the recession and the impact of the influx of foreign ownership?
• Community projects – Football is quite aloof about its community programmes but is it just shallow PR or inefficient waste of money?
* Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance 2009
Let’s get one thing straight from the start, football is not by any stretch of the imagination the best training ground for great business leaders with vision. As soon as you walk into the entrance of any football facility the ‘mist’ descends. It has improved, but football is still awash with tribalism and an over abundance of testosterone effecting decisions. Football has the power to attract even the sanest people into roles that frequently churn up employees and spit them out onto the surreal merry-go-round within the industry. Ever seen a job advertised for a football club? Elvis gets spotted more.
I’ll get through each of the questions over a couple of posts throughout the season and keep one eye on any potential influence coming from the World Cup 2010 in South Africa and the London Olympics 2012.
Let’s start with the biggest picture…
Climate change and football – nope, you’ve probably never heard that combination of words before or will anytime soon. Considering the industry’s global impact and size of audience that scares and saddens me. Environmental issues only rarely make it onto the team sheet. Here are a few direct significant aspects that football collectively needs to immediately deliver improvements on:
• 29.9 million journeys to and from stadia, with many by car. Clubs don’t care how fans get there, just how they spend their cash when they do.
• Millions of pies warmed, beers chilled and match-day programmes & tickets printed, plus undersoil heating and floodlights all burning fuel.
• Millions of litres of water required for a 92 stadium pitches in addition to hundreds of acres of training and Academy facilities.
• 29.9 million people all flushing a toilet (but not at the same time – although sometimes the queues suggest otherwise).
• Thousands of tonnes of beer bottles, pie trays, soft drink cans, waste food, used tickets and merchandise wrapping mostly sent to landfill.
…and that is without considering the impact of suppliers and contractors, local authorities, Police, and hundreds of match day staff.
The biggest problem for the environment from football is that nobody is taking responsibility. The Clubs themselves should but I’ve already touched on the lack of foresight at most managerial (of administration not playing staff) levels. To avoid getting a yellow card here, I have to say that some clubs have taken their first steps, but not many at all, and not far enough. You’re lucky to unearth a basic environmental policy, so don’t bother looking for ISO 14001. Clubs only care about the traditional revenue streams not the ones with water in them.
It isn’t high on the strategy radar of the governing bodies either, and it can get quite confusing who does what (or would like to) out of the Premier League, Football Association, Professional Footballers Association, Football League and other peripheral organisations. As footballs largest single financier, SKY TV does proclaim carbon neutrality, so maybe they should give the clubs a half time roasting in the changing room. I’d pay to watch that in HD.
Business in the Community tried to influence the sporting world with their ‘Clubs That Count’ programme, which I advised on during the early stages but alas, that sadly fizzled out after only a couple of years due to a lack of interest from the clubs. I was always keen on a community / environment / ethical league competition but the rest of the clubs didn’t want to be on the bottom of any table!
Somebody needs to grab those running the game by the scruff of the neck and enforce improvement across all environmental areas. Football is mistaken to think that by doing, in real terms, a mediocre job of community engagement (which could be so much more inclusive and effective) it can offset their other responsibilities.
There is no extra-time for the enviroment, only penalties.