Forest Green Rovers, GSB’s “Best Green Sports Story of the Year” in 2014, is looking to make its mark on the pitch in the 2015-16 season by getting promoted from the Vanarama National League (5th tier of English Soccer/Football) to League 2 (4th tier). And the better they do record-wise, the greater the awareness of its groundbreaking green story.
Forest Green Rovers (FGR) is a small English football club trying to make a big green impact. And this season, they’re looking to make a much bigger impact, football-wise.
As mentioned in a GreenSportsBlog piece last November and in several others after that, FGR is the “Greenest Team in Sports.” Why do we make that claim? Under the leadership of its owner, Dale Vince (also Founder/Owner of Ecotricity, a British wind and solar company), the club has greened its operations to an unprecedented degree, including but not limited to:
- Vegan-only concession stands
- Roof-top solar installations as well as ground-mounted solar-powered car-ports
- An organic pitch mowed by a solar-powered “Mow-Bot.”
While the FGR-Green story gets WOWS whenever I tell it, the reality is, FGR is currently in the 5th tier of English Football, playing in a league called the Vanarama National League. This is a far cry from the Barclay’s Premier League, with its global reach, iconic franchises (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, etc.) and its packed 50,000-70,000 seat stadia. By comparison, FGR’s home ground, The New Lawn, holds but 5,000.
The New Lawn, the home of Forest Green Rovers, the Greenest Team in Sports. (Photo credit: FGR Trust)
Given this reality, it seems to me there are two ways to amp up the greening of English Football.
- The ManU’s and Chelsea’s of the world decide to take the FGR greening approach–a Vegan Old Trafford (ManU’s home ground) would be something to see. But is that something that’s in the cards in the near future? Sure, Chelsea installed LED lights at Stamford Bridge and ManU has taken on greening initiatives at Old Trafford. But there has been no indication any Barclay’s Premier League clubs are moving in the FGR, super-green direction, at least none that I’m aware of.
- FGR gets promoted to higher rungs on the English Football ladder, which means greater fan support, more revenue and thus greater awareness of its greening efforts.
FGR can obviously only control its own destiny so let’s focus on #2. Here’s how promotion (and its sad opposite number, relegation) works in English football (and in all other countries’ sports leagues but the US and Canada):
At the end of the season, the bottom three teams in the Barclay’s Premier League are relegated down to the league directly below, called the Sky Bet Championship. The top 3 finishers in the Championship are promoted up to the BPL. Since revenues in the BPL dwarfs that of the Championship, being relegated is a fate worse than football death and getting promoted is better than winning the lottery.
Only the top 2 of the 24 Vanarama National League clubs get promoted up to League 2. So it ain’t easy. The first place finisher automatically goes up. Then the teams that finish 2nd through 6th play a 2-round playoff, with the playoff winner also going up.
Got all that?
Last season, Forest Green Rovers, aiming for its first-ever promotion to League 2, made it into the Vanarama National League playoff semifinals before falling to Bristol Rovers.
This season, FGR wants to leave nothing to chance–they are going for the Vanarama National League title! 12 games into the 46 game campaign, the club sits in 1st place, having won 9, tied 1 and only lost 2. There is a very long way to go–the season runs from August through May–but there are positive signs: Additional financial investment from Vince, stability at Manager (Adrian Pennock has been the head man since 2013), a strong goalkeeper in Jonny Maxted, and a powerful attack led by striker Aaron O’Connor and an able defense, anchored by left back James Jennings.
Striker Aaron O’Connor has scored 6 goals in 12 games to help propel Forest Green Rovers to the top of the Vanarama National League. (Photo credit: BBC)
It’s early so will table talk of promotion for now. Just know that GreenSportsBlog will be singing “We Are FGR” throughout the long Vanarama National League slog.
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