On June 8th, 2021, we proudly launched Save Today, Play Tomorrow which is the first of its kind sustainability programme in the UK that looks to engender & empower grassroots football to support our ambitious goal of creating a low carbon greener game across the region. As a regional governing body, we recognise the need to act now to ensure the beautiful game significantly reduces its environmental impact, whilst helping to educate those involved in football at all levels to make informed decisions that will shape how much future generations will be able to enjoy and sustain the game in the long term.
The programme includes 4 workstreams that are aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or SDG’s, these are Mental Health & Wellbeing, Positive Education, Climate Action & Reconnecting Football with Nature (Bio-Diversity). In February 2021, prior to the launch and to coincide with this work, Birmingham County FA were proudly accepted as participatory members of the UN’s Sport for Climate Action Framework, the first County FA to do so, joining the likes of Liverpool FC, Tottenham FC, the Olympics Committee and over 290 other national & international sports organisations in using the power of sport to normalise conversations, promote athlete advocacy at all levels, share best practice and implement innovative solutions to combat climate change.
What action have we taken so far?
Before launching the programme, we made considerable transformational changes to our own facility to ensure we reduced our footprint and are able to robustly report to the UN as well as offer our members transparency of our year-on-year performance towards out commitment.
These changes included:
· Switching to a zero to landfill (all waste accounted for)
· Removed all single use plastic from site
· Installed efficient low energy heating & lighting
· Agreed investment & installation of solar roof array
· Installation of 2 Electric Vehicle Chargers
· Moved to digital programmes for all major events & cup finals
· Adopted an agile workplace to reduce staff travel to/from the office
· Installed additional water refill stations on site for public use
· Qualified 5 members of staff as Mental Health Champions
· Switched to organic pitch maintenance products
· Staff completed Carbon Literacy training
· Created the first ever Carbon Calculator based on grassroots football travel
Furthermore, we have partnered with Planet Mark to complete our Year 1 scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions reporting and have implemented a robust reduction plan that will see a sizeable shift in our footprint over the coming years to meet our Net Zero promise, coupled with implementing an environmental & procurement policy, an updated staff handbook that includes sustainability & staff training opportunities, along with including climate change to the organisational Risk Register.
What results have we achieved so far?
We firmly believe we have a responsibility to support our clubs in helping us/them achieve a low carbon greener game, which is why through the Save Today, Play Tomorrow Programme we implemented our Sustainability Pledge, a voluntary commitment by clubs that they would over the season proactively find alternative more sustainable ways to travel to and from football, reduce waste, consume less energy & water, offer alternative seasonal or vegan food, and engage in community based environmental projects. For 21/22 we had 100 clubs (400 teams) sign the pledge with a combined saving of 61,244.92kgco2e for the season.
In addition to this we recognised that coming out of the pandemic, finance would be a reason football clubs may not be able to make changes which is why in September we launched the Green Innovation Fund, a ringfenced pot of our own capital to the value of £25,000 for clubs to implement their own initiatives. So far, we have funded 76 projects, investing back into the game locally supporting the removal of on average 7000 plastic bottles per week by switching to reusable, as well as funding the installation of water fountains, solar panels, EV chargers & cycle racks. The fund will continue to remain as part of our regional financial support package for all clubs over the coming seasons.
The largest proportion of footballs footprint is mobility with an estimated 12.8 million football travel movements each season in our region alone. We also know from collaborative research completed by WM-Air a leading air science team that in Birmingham alone there are 30 venues with PM2.5 air pollution levels that exceed WHO safety guidelines. The risk of long-term respiratory & cardio-vascular illness from playing at these venues is huge so to support reducing the reliance on the car and help create cleaner, greener spaces we partnered with Liftshare the UK’s largest carsharing organisation to launch the first car-pooling scheme in grassroots football offering all clubs, teams, officials, players & spectators a more sustainable alternative in how they travel to football. So far almost 1000 members have joined the scheme with 3000 miles saved, reducing 645kgco2e and 3kgN0x being emitted.
In March this year we partnered with Football Rebooted to create the first circular economy programme within grassroots football, with almost 40 clubs acting as local drop-off points for people’s pre-worn boots and redistributing them back into the local community via schools & charities. The target is 1 million pairs of boots per season saved from landfill. Further to this we have recently connected Football Rebooted with an end-of-life option too for boots, a UK start-up that have the capability to make new boots from old, and we have just completed some market research for them on this.
While the programme is aimed at supporting grassroots football we are and continue to support our pro-club partners too as they move to a more sustainable business model. To this end, in February this year we facilitated the first of hopefully many workshops with 5 of our 7 clubs, introducing them to organisations like Life Tackle, and the Italian FA who presented in depth their case studies of lifecycle assessments of co2e footprints within the elite game, fan engagement & sustainability leadership. The plan is to host more of these events throughout the year opening up the audience to cover a broader range of clubs.
The programme in the last 12 months has gained so much recognition and traction as it was shortlisted for the Sustainability in Sport Award at the National Sports Business Awards, furthermore it was recognised for a similar award at the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce before being rewarded in April winning the Go Green Award at the Sport & Recreation Alliance awards.
Kevin Shoemake, CEO of Birmingham County Football Association said: "The award winning programme continues to go from strength to strength with interest from football clubs, the FA, other sports and governing bodies and the media - both locally and nationally as well as the Professional game and traditional grassroots football.
It has been a remarkable year and we continue to learn and develop the Save Today, Play Tomorrow programme which underpins our four year business strategy as our One Big Ambition to not only grow and improve the game but also the environment which the game impacts on for current and future participants.
Since its inception and launch, it is evident that everyone can make a positive impact on the environment from within the game by simply thinking and changing habits and we will continue to strive to promote the streams and to educate for the benefit of the many thousands who play, officiate, watch, coach and volunteer within the national game and so there is a game for future generations to enjoy."
Find out more on our Save Today, Play Tomorrow programme.