GSB Eco-Scorecard #3: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since 2013, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams and athletes leading the sports-greening movement. What we haven’t focused on is their work on the field.

So in September, we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience. And it provides much needed fun, something the climate change/environmental world can use more of.

Here is our third entry.

 

Stephen Piscotty, Oakland A’s

Those who’ve read our first two eco-scorecards and/or our profile of Stephen Piscotty last January will notice that the 26 year-old eco-outfielder is no longer a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Stanford grad — with a degree in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering, Piscotty and a serious interest in solar and smart grid technology — was traded last month by the Cardinals to the Oakland A’s for two minor league prospects.

 

 

Piscotty Charles LeClaire

Eco-athlete Stephen Piscotty was traded from St. Louis to Oakland in December (Photo credit: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

 

On the surface, this looks like a strictly baseball move: After a stellar rookie year in 2016, Piscotty had a rough 2017:  Two stints on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries combined with a sophomore slump at the plate led to a brief demotion to Triple-A Memphis in August.

But there is much more to the move to the Bay Area for Piscotty than just baseball.

Piscotty received news over Memorial Day 2017 that his mother, Gretchen, who resides with Stephen’s dad in the Bay Area an hour’s drive from Oakland, had been diagnosed with ALS^ or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Cardinals’ president of baseball operations John Mozeliak was quoted in a USA TODAY story by Jorge L. Ortiz at the time of the trade as saying, “There were certainly some opportunities to move [Piscotty] elsewhere, and when you’re looking at how to break a tie, clearly [his mom’s illness] did play into it.’’

St. Louis’ compassionate approach towards Piscotty elicited praise from Billy Beane#, the A’s executive VP of baseball operations: “That’s what makes the Cardinals one of the classiest organizations in sports.”

Amen to that!

Gretchen Piscotty faces a very rough road ahead so it is a great thing that her son will be close by when the A’s are at home. Here’s hoping Stephen Piscotty rebounds with a strong 2018.

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing In Contention After Three Legs of Volvo Ocean Race

Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the sailing team trying to win the ’round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) while being its most sustainable squad, is in the mix after three of the race’s 12 legs.

Led by skipper Charlie Enright and team director Mark Towill, the team is tied for second position in the seven boat field. After winning the first leg from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Vestas 11th Hour Racing earned third place in both the second (Lisbon-Cape Town) and third (Cape Town-Melbourne) chapters. The teams left Melbourne to start the fourth leg on January 2 for Hong Kong, with expected arrival on January 15.

 

Leg Zero, Prologue start round the corner on-board Vestas 11th Hour, light breeze downwind. Photo by Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race. 08 October, 2017

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team during the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in October (Photo credit: Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

Perhaps the main reason Enright, Towill & Co. have a solid chance to succeed on and off the water is the unique collaboration taking place between sport, business (Vestas, the largest wind turbine maker in the world) and philanthropy (11th Hour Racing, an organization that promotes ocean health by serving as sustainability consultant to elite sailing teams). The partnership resulted in a set of best-in-class set sustainability initiatives for Vestas 11th Hour Racing, including:

  • The calculation and offsetting of the team’s carbon footprint by tracking emissions related to travel, accommodations, electricity usage, water consumption and waste.
  • Outfitting each team member with a “sustainability kit” containing refillable water bottle, coffee mug, bamboo toothbrushes, and a personal water filter.
  • Eliminating single-use plastics and straws
  • Being ‘plastic negative’ by removing more trash from beach cleanups than they create during the race.  
  • Communicating the team’s vision of a cleaner, healthier environment to fans at race stops via an interactive Exploration Zone and during the race through its website, social media, and the #LeadingSustainability hashtag.

After Hong Kong, the race heads to Guangzhou (China) and back to Hong Kong. Then it’s on to Auckland (New Zealand), Itajaí (Brazil), Newport (Rhode Island, USA), Cardiff (Wales) and Gothenberg (Sweden), before finishing in The Hague (Netherlands) in June.

 

Three Mid-to-Lower Tier English Football Clubs Doing Great Green Things

Three English football (soccer) clubs, which currently reside between the fourth and sixth levels of the “Pro/Semi-Pro Football Pyramid,” (incredibly, there are 24 tiers) have earned our consistent attention by their innovative Green-Sports leadership off the pitch. Let’s see how they’re doing on it.

Forest Green Rovers (League Two*, English football’s fourth tier)

Forest Green Rovers (FGR) is the Greenest Team in Sports — earning that distinction in a myriad of ways, from solar powered “Mow-Bots” used to manicure the organic pitch at The New Lawn stadium to all vegan-only concession stands.

FGR took a major step up on the pitch in 2017, earning promotion from the fifth to the fourth tier of English football — the highest rung achieved in the club’s 125-year history — in a May playoff match at London’s Wembley Stadium. The trick for FGR this season is to stay in the fourth tier and avoid relegation down from whence they came. Their task is clear: finish above the bottom two places in the 24-team league when the campaign ends in May.

It’s been quite a struggle, especially lately: A 2-1 home loss to Wycombe on New Year’s Day, the club’s sixth in seven matches (the other match ended in a draw), put FGR at the bottom of the table/standings just past the season’s halfway point. A quick turnaround was needed and FGR delivered with Saturday’s taut 1-0 home win vs. 13th place Port Vale.

The club’s first win of the new year came courtesy of a goal from the newly acquired Reuben Reid. Per the official match report, the game-winner came in the 61st minute as “Reid picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and thundered a sensational left footed effort into the top corner.” Port Vale had several late chances for an equalizer but FGR held on for the win and the vital three points that went with it.

 

Reuben Reid

Reuben Reid (l) of Forest Green Rovers scored the game-winner in Saturday’s 1-0 home win vs. Port Vale

 

The win moved FGR up two slots to 22nd place, just out of the dreaded “Relegation Zone,” at least for now. Can the lads keep it up? We shall see, starting with Saturday’s tilt at 10th place Swindon Town.

 

Sutton United (National League*, fifth tier)

Just south of Wimbledon resides Sutton United F.C. and its 5,000 seat Gander Green Lane, the first football stadium to achieve The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification##. Reducing its carbon footprint by 13.6 percent in 2016 and diverting 88 percent of its waste from landfill helped the club earn the designation.

On the pitch, Sutton United is threatening to join Forest Green Rovers in the fourth tier next season — that is, if FGR can stay up. The Amber & Chocolates sit in third place in the National League, within shouting distance of second place and a promotion spot. They started the 2018 portion of their campaign just like they ended 2017 — hot — with a 2-1 win at Gateshead.

The sprint to season’s end in May picks up on Saturday when promotion rival Dagenham & Redbridge comes to Gander Green Lane.

 

Dartford F.C. (National League South*, sixth tier)

Dartford Football Club in Kent, 18 miles southeast of London, has always toiled in the middle-lower rungs of the English football pyramid, usually between the fifth and eighth tiers.

But the club’s 4,100-seat Princes Park, which opened in 2006, is definitely top tier, sustainability-wise: It was the UK’s first sustainable, purpose-built, small-sized stadium, featuring on-site solar panels, energy efficient lighting, a state-of-the-art green roof, and an advanced reclaimed rainwater system.

 

 

Princes Park Green Roof

Princes Park, with its distinctive and state of the art green roof, serves as the home of Dartford F.C. in Kent England (Photo credit: Sustainability in Sport)

 

On the pitch, Dartford is having a fine season. Since a loss on December 9, the club has gone unbeaten in its last six matches to move into first place in the sixth tier. First and second place finishers get promoted to the fifth tier.

Only six points separates first to eighth place so the battle for the two promotion slots is tight. Dartford can separate themselves from the pack a bit on Saturday when fourth place Havant & Waterlooville% comes to Princes Park.

 

 

^ ALS = Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
# Billy Beane is also the metrics-oriented GM who was portrayed by Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball
* The top six tiers of English football are, from first to sixth: Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two, National League, and National League South/National League North
## Planet Mark is a four year-old British sustainability certification system
Havant & Waterlooville is one of the great team names in sports.

 


 

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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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