GreenSportsBlog has been beating the “major sports media needs to cover climate” drum for the last several years. That’s because far more people follow sports on TV, radio and/or online than actually go to games.
It had largely been quiet on that front.
Until this past Sunday, that is.
That’s when Tottenham Hotspur hosted the first Net Zero Carbon game in Premier League history against London rival Chelsea, in partnership with Sky Sports.
#GameZero also garnered media coverage in the USA on NBC Sports, both pre- and in-game.
The Tottenham Hotspur–Chelsea game was a bit more than an hour old. It was, sadly for this Spurs supporter, getting away from Tottenham at their sparkling new stadium.
After a spirited first half 0-0 draw, first place Chelsea made some adjustments during the halftime break. The moves paid off, with the visitors scoring twice in the first 12 minutes of the second stanza to essentially put the matter to rest.
Sensing that Chelsea was much more likely than Tottenham to score the next goal¹, I glumly watched the NBC Sports broadcast with one eye.
And then, in the 65th minute, I snapped to full attention when play-by-play announcer Arlo White uttered these words:
“Today’s game at Tottenham Stadium between Spurs and Chelsea is the first ‘net zero carbon’ football match in Premier League history. NBC’s partner Sky Sports teamed up with Tottenham Hotspur on #GameZero. Tottenham reduced emissions as much as possible, with the remainder offset through projects that remove emissions from the atmosphere. Sky Sports, Tottenham Hotspur and the British Government want #GameZero to raise awareness of the threat of climate change and inspire football fans to make simple changes that will help reduce their own carbon footprints.”
White’s announcement followed a long pregame interview with Tottenham’s Eric Dier. The veteran defender showed Sky Sports correspondent Geoff Shreeves around the organic garden at the Spurs state-of-the-art training complex in North London and explained how he and the club are trying to make a difference on climate. Here are some quotes from Dier:
- “I grow my own food with my mum. We just had our first harvest of honey; I gave some to the boys and they loved it.”
- “Premier League football clubs are in a great position to be sustainable. They have the financial means to do it. At Tottenham, our Chairman (Daniel Levy) is really into it.”
- “Our training complex is incredible from a green point of view. Green roofs for produce, solar panels, and a rainwater retention system. Nothing at all goes to landfill.”
So, while the Spurs-Chelsea game was all but over, the bigger contest — the “sports media coverage of climate change as a serious issue” game — was just getting underway, especially here in North America.
Why is sports media climate coverage so important?
Because millions if not billions more sports fans watch sports on TV (cable or streaming) and/or online than attend games at stadiums and arenas. Don’t believe me? It was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who said in 2020 that 99 percent of NBA fans do not attend games.
So, that means if the folks who run sports — like Adam Silver and Premier League commissioner Richard Masters — are really serious about being key players in the #ClimateComeback, they must work with their media partners — like Sky Sports and ESPN — to ensure that viewers become as familiar with substantive climate messaging as they are with the GEICO Gecko². Well, maybe not that familiar but you get the idea.
Sky Sports and sister network Sky Sports News are showing the way.
They have been airing a variety of climate-themed content throughout 2021, highlighted by their “Summer of Sustainability” series. It told stories of positive climate action by athletes, clubs and organizations across Great Britain. Sportscaster David Garrido, for whom the environment and climate action is a particular passion, has championed green-themed content for Sky Sports News
GreenSportsBlog urges NBC Sports, ESPN and other American sports networks to take the climate coverage baton from Sky Sports — and run with it — soon!
¹ I was right — Chelsea added a late goal to earn a 3-0 win. It could’ve been worse.
² For GSB readers who are not in the USA, GEICO is a big auto insurance company. The GEICO Gecko is a character in their ubiquitous TV and radio ads.
Photo at top: Spurs star Harry Kane (in white jersey) featured in Sky Sports #GameZero promotions (Photo credit: Sky Sports)