New Rules for Green-Sports, Part Three

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written two posts in which I imagined myself Commissioner of (Green) Sports. In that idyllic world (at least to my way of thinking), I gave myself powers to unilaterally enact any Green-Sports initiative I wanted. In a nod to the popular “New Rules” segment on Bill Maher’s HBO political-comedy-satire talk show, Real Time, I entitled the posts “New Rules for Green Sports.”

Maher’s show is currently on hiatus until August 3 — given the sad performance by the US President at the NATO conference and at the summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that episode should be a doozy^. With that being the case, I thought now would be the perfect time to fill that void, put on my regal vestments and offer you, my subjects, er, readers, “New Rulesfor Green Sports, Part Three.”

 

For those of you who don’t have HBO and have never seen Real Time with Bill Maher, the host ends each hour-long episode of his show with “New Rules,” in which Maher gives himself autocratic powers to enact his own rules for politics and life in general. Here’s a sampler from April.

 

Video courtesy of HBO and YouTube

 

In the first two “New Rules for Green-Sports” offerings I (benevolently) ordered, among other things, that:

  • Fans who travel to games via mass transit, drive EVs or hybrids get a rebate, paid for from parking revenues. Fans who come by bike or walk also qualify
  • Every broadcast of a sports event must air at least one 30 second Public Service Announcement (PSA) themed to the climate change fight
  • Each stadium and arena will have at least one vegan-only food stand
  • Teams that broadcast their climate change-fighting actions receive a tax break

 


 

OK, enough with the preliminaries; now it’s on to the third edition of “New Rules for Green-Sports”

New Green-Sports Rule #1ESPN will give out an “Eco-Athlete of the Year” honor at the 2019 ESPY Award show. Tonight’s 2018 ESPYs show will highlight the great works of athletes and coaches in their communities. It will also honor the coaches who perished in the Parkland (FL) High School mass shooting. But ESPN, which last month won the Green Sports Alliance’s “Environmental Leadership Award,” doesn’t yet use the ESPYs to spotlight athletes engaged in environmentalism and the climate change fight. That will end with next year’s ESPY’s with the addition of the “Eco-Athlete of the Year” award.

If the ESPY’s would have had the foresight to award an Eco-Athlete of the Year for 2018, I have a great suggestion for the first honoree: Leilani Münter, the self-described eco “vegan, hippie chick with a race car” who is having a solid year on the track, including a fifth place finish at the Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. Off the track, her work is even more important, as Leilani supports a booth, sponsored by two non-profits, that dispenses vegan Impossible Burgers during the week of each race she enters.

 

Leilani Munter Scott LePage

Leilani Münter, eco “vegan, hippie chick with a race car” will earn a 2019 Eco-Athlete ESPY, if the GreenSportsBlogger has his way (Photo credit: Scott LePage)

 

New Green-Sports Rule #2The Tour de France will use only EV — or at least hybrid — support vehicles. The biggest race in all of cycling has, over the past two decades, been severely tarnished by well-publicized doping scandals. One way for the Tour to improve its image would be to become a Green-Sports leader. Since cyclists use only human energy to get up and down the Alps, it already has a head start on greenness. To help nudge the Tour along its green path, our second Green-Sports “New Rule” says that, for 2019 and beyond, all team and race organizer support vehicles must be electric vehicles (EVs). If EV range is a concern, hybrids will suffice. It should be noted that the most of today’s EVs have range necessary to support the cyclists from beginning to end —the longest stage of the 2018 Tour is 143 miles.

EV and hybrid support vehicles will be a highly visible sign to the 10 to 12 million fans who annually line the route and the many millions more who watch on TV and other media platforms that the Tour de France is headed in the right, green direction.

 

Support Vehicles 2014 Tour

Support vehicles at the 2014 Tour de France (Photo credit: Times of London)

 

New Green-Sports Rule #3: FIFA will never again award a Men’s or Women’s World Cup to a country (or group of countries) where outdoor stadiums have to be air-conditioned. Russia was not my choice to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup — I tend not to want to reward a country whose government murders journalists, invades neighboring states and interferes in US elections with the world’s most watched sports event.

But I wasn’t in the “New Rules” business back in 2011 when FIFA awarded Russia with the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and Qatar — thanks in large part to a massive corruption scheme — was named host of the 2022 tournament.

The selection of Qatar was derided almost from the moment when then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced it had won the bid, with the country’s extreme heat, exacerbated by climate change, being among the top concerns for fans and players alike.

 

Sepp Blatter2

Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA in 2011, announces the selection of Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup (Photo credit: Telegraph of London)

 

With June and July temperatures regularly reaching 110°F/43.3°C, FIFA decided to move the 2022 tournament to December*, when temperatures are more likely to be in the 80s Fahrenheit (27°-31° Celsius).

But, even in December, it can get bloody hot in Qatar. Organizers thus decided that all eight stadia that will be built for the World Cup will be air conditioned — despite all of them being open air buildings!

To say the least, the choice of Qatar to host the World Cup flies in the face of FIFA’s recent sustainability efforts.

But now that I’m on the case, FIFA will never again award the World Cup to a country that needs to build open air, air conditioned stadia. Not on my “New Rules” watch!

 

^ With two plus weeks between now and the August 3rd episode, there will likely be new reality show-style nonsense from POTUS that will make Helsinki and NATO seem like old news
* The switch to December will play havoc with domestic club league (English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Budndesliga etc.) seasons around the world but, gifting (grifting?) the World Cup to a country with no soccer tradition and no World Cup-quality stadia must be worth that small bit of trouble, right?

 


 

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Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Safe From Relegation, Subject of Video from “The Years Project”

It has been a great week for Forest Green Rovers — the Greenest Team in Sports.  After flirting with relegation much of the season, the club assured itself of remaining in League Two, the 4th tier of English soccer/football, with two matches to play. And FGR was the subject of a short yet powerful video from the “YEARS Project.”

 

Management of Forest Green Rovers, almost universally acknowledged as The Greenest Team in Sports —it serves only vegan food to supporters and players alike and manicures its home pitch with a solar powered MoBot, among many other great, green things — realizes that the English soccer/football club’s ability to influence other sports teams and organizations on environmental issues in the future, is directly related to its performance on the pitch. The better it does, the higher up England’s football pyramid it reaches, the more media will cover FGR’s green story (#CoverGreenSports).

After a playoff win at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium last May earned FGR promotion from England’s 5th to the 4th division — the highest level it has ever reached in 125+ years of play. That led to more media coverage of the team and its sustainability story than ever before — GreenSportsBlog had been on this story since 2014 but suddenly, the ESPNs and The Guardians of the world were paying visits to the Forest Green’s New Lawn Stadium. 

Thus, the pressure was intense to avoid going down, the fate that will be suffered by the last and next-to-last place teams in the 24 team league.

Thing is, newly-promoted teams, whether to the Premier League or to League Two, often struggle to “stay up” in their first season against much stiffer competition. FGR was no different, wallowing near the bottom of the table (standings) for much of the campaign. But a strong late season run pushed Forest Green Rovers above the drop zone and the team clinched safety with two games to go on April 24 with a 0-0 draw at Yeovil Town.

 

FGR Stays Up

Members of Forest Green Rovers salute their traveling supporters after clinching safety from relegation in a 0-0 draw at Yeovil Town (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

A couple of days later the, “YEARS Project,” an outgrowth of the outstanding, if not-nearly-viewed-enough climate change-themed documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously^,” went up on Facebook and YouTube with a short form (90 seconds) video that, despite (or maybe because of?) its brevity and no-narration style, tells the Forest Green Rovers story in eye-catching, memorable fashion. Check out the YouTube video here:

 

Here’s the link to the video on the YEARS Project’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YearsOfLiving/videos/1714770931943291/

If you want to see other short-form, climate change-focused content, on a wide variety of topics, I heartily urge you to LIKE their Facebook page.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Forest Green Rovers’ Chairman Dale Vince and company continue to build the team’s quality so they can contend for promotion to 3rd tier League One in 2018-19. Which will result in even more coverage of the club’s green story.

 

^ If you haven’t watched Years of Living Dangerously, click here — it’s worth your time!

 


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Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Earns Promotion Up England’s Football (Soccer) Ladder

In the almost four year existence of GreenSportsBlog, we have written more stories about fifth tier English soccer/football club Forest Green Rovers than any other team or topic—12 times to be exact. Why? FGR is, clearly to GSB, the Greenest Team in Sports. From rooftop solar to mowing the lawn with a solar powered “mow-bot” (I kid you not!) to the now famous vegan-only food concessions, FGR is at the cutting edge of Green-Sports. And, as of Sunday they are no longer in the fifth tier of English soccer. After beating Tranmere, 3-1, in a playoff match at London’s fabled Wembley Stadium, FGR earned promotion to the fourth tier (aka League Two), for the first time ever. This is huge, from both football and greening perspectives.

 

I am quite sure you’ve never heard of Kaiyne Woolery. But he may well be one of the most important people in Green-Sports today—and he likely has no idea about that fact.

Woolery scored two goals to lead Forest Green Rovers (FGR), aka the Greenest Team in Sports, to a 3-1 win over Tranmere Rovers on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London. The playoff victory earned FGR promotion from the National League (the fifth tier of English football) to League Two (fourth tier).

Kaiyne Woolery

Kaiyne Woolery celebrates one of his two goals for Forest Green Rovers in Sunday’s promotion 3-1 playoff win at London’s Wembley Stadium over Tranmere. FGR moves up to League Two, the 4th tier of English football, next season (Photo credit: Sky Sports)

 

You simply cannot overstate the impact of this win, abetted by Woolery’s two goals, both in terms of football and FGR’s sustainability/climate change fighting mission.

 

MOVING ON UP

From a football perspective, consider that Forest Green Rovers has been in existence since 1889 and has never made it up to the fourth tier (FYI, there are 24 tiers in English football, with over 7,000 clubs).

In most countries—but not the US and Canada—professional soccer operates a system of promotion and relegation. Clubs that finish at or near the top of a league are promoted to the league above for the following season. Teams that end up at or near the bottom get relegated to the league below. If you want more information on promotion and relegation, check out this schematic, which maps out the top nine tiers of English football, and/or click here.

 

English Football Pyramid

The English Football Pyramid. Forest Green Rovers won promotion from the 5th Level (Conference National) to the 4th Level (League Two), the highest tier it has ever achieved. (Credit: An American’s Guide to English Soccer)

 

For most of its 128 year existence, FGR rattled around a maze of English local, county and regional leagues, moving up and down over the decades, never getting above the sixth tier. In 1997-98, they made it up to the National League, the fifth tier of English soccer. While that was an accomplishment, let’s put it in its proper perspective: In baseball terms, the fifth tier is the equivalent of the low minor leagues. FGR’s quaint and sustainable home ground, The New Lawn, has a capacity of about 5,100, similar to most of its (now former) National League compatriots.

The club largely teetered between relegation and mediocrity until Dale Vince, OBE^, owner of Ecotricity, a solar and wind provider, bought the club in 2010. They started slowly but hit on an upward trajectory that led to FGR making the promotion playoffs in 2015 and 2016. They fell short both years but the third time proved to be a charm on Sunday. Before a crowd of almost 19,000 at Wembley Stadium in London, the club earned promotion to League Two with Woolery’s 11th and 44th minute goals sandwiching one from Christian Doidge in the 41st.

The honeymoon will be brief for the coaches, players and supporters, many of whom flooded The New Lawn for a celebration Monday night. FGR’s first League Two season starts in just three months (it’s a loooooong season!). Some higher caliber talent will need to be added to the core of this season’s group to make sure Forest Green Rovers stays in the fourth tier and doesn’t face relegation.

 

LEAGUE TWO: BIGGER MEGAPHONE FOR FGR’S GREENNESS

From a sustainability perspective, the implications of Woolery’s two goals and of the resulting move up the ladder are also massive.

One might not think going from the fifth to fourth tier is that big a deal. Trust me; it is.

  • Sky Sports, a British version of ESPN, broadcasts League Two matches, providing those clubs with greater media exposure, and thus a bigger audience, than their National League counterparts (without a national broadcast deal) can hope for. And that means a bigger audience for stories about FGR’s greenness, the vegan only food, the mow-bot, etc.
  • With its ascension to League Two, FGR is now, per the schematic above, part of The Football League, the organization that oversees the second, third and fourth tiers. This is important because FGR can take part in two domestic, knock-out Cup competitions, the League Cup (includes the Premier League teams) and the League Trophy (open to League One and Two clubs only) that are not open to National League clubs or below. And that means they will share in yet more additional revenue. The more famous and prestigious FA Cup is open to all levels.

 

FGR Tweet

 

  • The TV deal and the additional Cup exposure will result in a financial windfall for the club, estimated by one source to be between $1-$2 million. That is rounding error compared to the estimated $220 million influx for each of the three teams that get promoted from the second tier Championship to the Premier League. But $1-$2 million can be a big deal in the Forest Green Rovers world. It will allow Mr. Vince to attract a higher level of talent. And perhaps he will be able to move forward on some new sustainability initiatives.

 

The highest profile sustainability-focused project on Mr. Vince’s docket is FGR’s new stadium. To be clear, the world’s first all-wood stadium was in the planning phase before this season started.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Did you say all-wood stadium?”

Yes. Mr. Vince and company is planning an all (fire-retardant treated) wood stadium. In a meadow.

 

FGR Exterior

Computer-aided design of the exterior of the planned all-wood Forest Green Rovers stadium. (Courtesy Forest Green Rovers and Zaha Hadid Architects)

 

Mr. Vince, in a story by George Ramsey that ran Tuesday on CNN.com, said, “The importance of wood is not only that it’s naturally occurring, [but that] it has very low embodied carbon — about as low as it gets for a building material. And when you bear in mind that around three-quarters of the lifetime carbon impact of any stadium comes from its building materials, you can see why that’s so important — and it’s why our new stadium will have the lowest embodiment of carbon of any stadium.”

 

FGR Interior

Computer-aided design of the interior of the planned Forest Green Rovers stadium. (Courtesy Forest Green Rovers and Zaha Hadid Architects)

 

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the stadium will be topped by a translucent, sloping roof to reduce shadows on the pitch (field) and aid in grass growth. Venue walkways have been fashioned to allow better ventilation and maintenance of the field.

 

The first 53 seconds of this 6:44 video from TomoNews provides details about Forest Green Rovers’ proposed all-wood stadium.

 

If all goes to plan, the stadium will be the hub of a 100-acre Eco Park. At an estimated cost of $123 million, the park will include facilities for both the community and the club: gyms, all-weather soccer pitches/fields, sports science clinics, as well as a conference center.

The project still needs approval from local authorities, so Mr. Vince asked the fans present at Monday’s promotion celebration to write to the Stroud District Council in support of the stadium—another benefit of promotion to League Two.

But don’t think that Mr. Vince is content to stop at League Two. He was quoted at the celebration by Aled Thomas in Gloucestershire Live as saying, “I think we’ll have a good first season in League Two and will be there or thereabouts for promotion – I’m aiming for League One and then the Championship.”

And the FGR owner is also aiming, with his club’s higher profile, to show his fellow owners that green is good for business and good for football.

^ OBE = Order of the British Empire, a level of chivalry in the United Kingdom.

 


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GSB News and Notes: Arsenal Signs Solar Power Deal; Swiss Ski Industry Imperiled by Climate Change

GreenSportsBlog offers up a European News & Notes: Arsenal, historically, one of England’s winningest soccer clubs, signed a deal to power their London stadium with solar power, and almost immediately began encouraging its fans to sign up for clean energy. Swiss ski resorts could see a 70 percent drop in snow cover as a result of climate change. 

 

ARSENAL PARTNERS WITH OCTOPUS ENERGY TO POWER STADIUM WITH SOLAR; ENCOURAGE FANS TO DO SO AT HOME

Earlier this season, perennial Premier League contender (this season? Not so much) Arsenal announced that Octopus Energy had signed on as their official energy partner. London-based Octopus, with over 220 solar farms, is the UK’s largest investor in solar. In fact, it is responsible for 40 percent of Britain’s large scale solar power. 

The partnership will help the club reach their sustainability targets, including helping to power the Emirates Stadium in North London using its solar resources. This is great, and typical of clean energy sponsorships at stadiums and arenas. 

But the Octopus-Arsenal deal goes beyond the typical to embrace classic (green) sports, loyalty marketing tactics. Arsenal fans who sign up with Octopus have the chance to win cool prizes, including behind the scenes VIP stadium tours, signed Arsenal shirts and autographed Arsenal footballs. And they are being offered the same clean energy rates for their homes as the club pays to power The Emirates. This represents a significant discount vs. the open or standard consumer price.

Given the incredible, hyper-local loyalty Premier League fans have for their clubs (the closest thing to it in US sports is the religious zeal of SEC college football fans), rewarding fans with Arsenal swag for making a choice for clean energy is a powerful (pun intended) way to go.

A great example of this is Kester (last name withheld for privacy reasons), winner of the Month for February of Octopus Energy’s Arsenal fan drawing. Per an interview on the Octopus website, Arsenal is clearly in his blood: “I’ve been supporting Arsenal my whole life. Ever since I was 4 years old, when I went down to Highbury^ for my first game. I’ve been hooked ever since. My family has supported Arsenal for decades”

Arsenal Octopus Feb Winner

Kester switched to Octopus Energy’s clean energy supply and, in the process, won this Arsenal jersey. (Photo credit: Octopus Energy)

 

The connection to his favorite football club made the difference for Kester when he went shopping for an energy provider: “I wanted to move energy providers, and I was on a comparison site looking for a green energy plan when I stumbled upon Octopus Energy. After a bit of research, I noticed on the Arsenal website that you guys had signed a deal to give fans their own energy plan, so I signed up. The Arsenal partnership was great as it meant I could support the club, and also be entered into the monthly prize draws.”

Octopus Energy will also have signage and other branding at all Premier League and FA Cup matches played at The Emirates as well as hospitality on some match days. In addition, they will be able to access Arsenal’s digital channels and run promotions featuring the club’s stars.

Arsenal Players

Arsenal players promote the club’s partnership with Octopus Energy, the UK’s largest investor in solar power. (Photo credit: Arsenal F.C.)

 

As a New York City-based fan of North London rival Tottenham Hotspur, it burns me up that Arsenal have beaten Spurs to the Green-Sports/clean energy punch. But, let’s cut Spurs a little slack here: They’re in their final campaign at the venerable White Hart Lane, will be a tenant next season at Wembley Stadium, the home of the English National Team, before moving into their new home in August 2018. At that time, hopefully Spurs fans will be able to win cool prizes by signing up with a clean energy provider.

In the meantime, let’s hope Spurs can finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time since 1996—as of this writing they’re six points ahead.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPERILS SWISS SKI RESORTS’ BUSINESS

Will humanity be able to keep average global surface temperature rise to at or below 2° C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century? That is, of course, the “will life on earth resemble what we’ve known it to be” question. 

In the grand scheme of things, the survival of the Swiss ski industry is far down the priority list as compared to, say, life itself. That said, the Alps, with Switzerland at its core, is the world’s biggest ski destination, accounting for 44 percent of world ski visitors. So it is significant when Robert McSweeney, writing in the February 16 edition of Carbon Briefreports on a new study that says the Swiss ski season will increasingly be curtailed by a lack of snow.

The research, published in The Cryosphere, suggests that the pristine Swiss slopes could see an average 70 percent reduction in the depth of snow cover by the end of the century if the 2° C threshold is breached. For ski resorts at lower elevations, this might mean no snow at all. On the other hand, declines in snow depth could be limited to 30 percent if global temperature rise does not break the 2° C barrier. Some consolation.

henri-oreiller

Henri Oreiller of France, en route to winning the Gold Medal in the downhill at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Hosting an Olympics in St. Moritz, located in the central portion of the country, towards the end of the 21st century might be impossible, given the effects of climate change, according to new research. (Photo credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

Using data collected from 82 weather stations and considering three different climate change scenarios, the researchers simulated snow cover in Central and Eastern Switzerland ski country through the 21st century.

In the first scenario, worldwide CO2 emissions are halved by the middle of the century and global temperature rise is likely to stay below 2° C. The other two scenarios assume no specific international effort to cut emissions, with global temperatures rising 2.2-4.9C or 2.5-5.9C compared to pre-industrial levels.

In the near-term (between now and 2035), the projected decline in the thickness of snow is similar for all three scenarios – at around 20-30 percent compared to recent years. However, as the projections extend into the middle and end of the century, the differences between the scenarios become stark. By 2070-99, for example, the projected snow changes in the two Swiss ski regions are around 30 percent for the low CO2 scenario, but nearer to 70 percent for the “business as usual” approaches. 

The driving force behind the deterioration of snow cover is increasing temperature, not drought. Even increases in precipitation won’t compensate for the impact of the warming, say the researchers, as that precipitation will increasingly fall as rain rather than snow, especially on the resorts in the lower altitudes. As the study says, “the most affected elevation zone for climate change is located below 1,200m (~4,000 ft), where the simulations show almost no snow towards the end of the century.” Around a quarter of Alpine ski resorts are located entirely below this altitude.

For resorts where there is still enough snow for skiing, the projections suggest the average season will be much shorter, dropping from a current 6.5 months at elevations of 1,500m and up, to just two months (mid-December to mid-February) by 2100.

All of this can be expected to lead to a devastating effect on the Swiss Alps’ economy. For some Alpine villages, as much as 90% of their economy depends on winter tourism.

So the ski industry will increasingly rely on artificial snow. In fact, it is already doing so— 36 percent of slopes in Switzerland and 66 percent in Austria. Problem is, it is a water and energy intensive —and expensive—process. That has to change if the ski industry in the Alps is to have a long term chance. As the report’s lead author Dr Christoph Marty, a research scientist at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Switzerland, told McSweeney, “The efficient production of technical snow will get even more important than today.”

davos

Davos, Switzerland ski slopes being pelted with artificial snow in 2014 (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 


^ Highbury was Arsenal’s home stadium from 1913-2006. The club moved into the Emirates Stadium for the 2006-2007 Premier League campaign.
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