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Research LibrarySport & Environment

Environmental Sustainability in Scottish Football

By 2 June 2020No Comments
Scottish Football Association
Published: 2016


This document commissioned by the Scottish FA, and working in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, provides a guide to help football clubs at all levels be more environmentally sustainable by avoiding waste and reducing their carbon emissions. The report provides a brief exploration into the ecological footprint of football before outlining its guiding principles for achieving environmental sustainability in ‘your club’, ‘your home’, and ‘your community’. It concludes with some positive stories from grassroot clubs in Scotland and across Europe about the implementation of successful environmental schemes, as well as a list of funding resources and further reading.


The foundation of the guiding principles is a commitment to ‘the circular economy’, which aims to link up the start of a product or service’s life cycle with its end, encouraging regeneration of products by design. Clubs can achieve this by observing ‘the three R’s’: ‘reduce’, ‘reuse’, and ‘recycle’. A checklist is also provided, asking clubs if they have considered providing an environmental policy statement on the website, sustainable travel schemes, recycling schemes, cycling and car-sharing, and environmental education programmes.

Key Findings

Environmentally friendly resources include renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, as well as energy efficient LED floodlights for the stadium. Building Management Systems (BMS) can control operational functions such as toilet flushing to reduce water usage, as well as lighting and heating to reduce overall energy consumption. For pitch maintenance, an irrigation system that utilises rainwater reduces water usage, whilst the use of organic matter for treating the soil reduces carbon emissions. For catering, promoting vegetarian options, as well as locally and nationally sourced food and drink products, reduces impact on the environment from resource consumption and travel. Environmentally friendly methods of transport should be encouraged in the community by providing good cycle paths, easily accessible information on public transport links, and car sharing schemes. Waste can be reduced by implementing numerous clear recycling points around the stadium and facilities, as well as recycling kits and equipment so they are not disposed of yearly. One example of a grassroots club implementing an environmentally friendly scheme is the Ayr United football academy, who saved 8.55 tones of CO2 in one year through developing a kit drying room as opposed to using tumble dryer machines.


Football clubs have the potential to be incredibly influential for communicating values of social responsibility to the wider community, so should strive to lead by example. This report will be helpful for clubs because it acknowledges potential cost barriers to achieving environmental sustainability, and so seeks to balance this with financial and social sustainability by providing funding resources and cost-effective examples. Case studies from grassroot clubs provide inspirational illustrations for how commitment to environmental sustainability can have a positive impact on a club’s finances and its relationships to the broader community.