Football and climate change
Is the game we love at risk?
What's been happening?
Around a third of grassroots pitches are already losing six weeks to two months of the year from flooding due to severe weather1.
A number of Met Office attribution studies have shown that some heavy rainfall events in the UK in recent years associated with flooding can be attributed to human-caused climate change.
What action can my club take?
The United Nations Sports for Climate Action initiative invites sports organisations to consider a range of actions to reduce their carbon footprint in order to tackle climate change. Organisations from around the globe have signed up, including the Football Association (FA) and Forest Green Rovers, described by FIFA as 'the greenest football club in the world'. They aim to reduce their carbon footprint through actions such as:
- using green energy; and
- capturing rainfall for irrigation rather than using mains water.
The FA highlighted that across the grassroots game, around 150,000 matches are cancelled each year due to ‘poor quality pitches’. The FA advises that good maintenance practices will ensure good quality pitches, which will help with the management of severe weather including surface water flooding or drought.
If your club is already susceptible to flooding or frequently becomes waterlogged, you may need to consider how you can adapt your grounds maintenance to tackle this both now and in the future. The Grounds Management Association Toolkit includes a range of resources and Sport England's sustainability materials include flooding and other relevant guidance.
Suggested actions include:
- regular maintenance of drainage systems; and
- regular aeration of grass pitches.
What does the future hold?
A recent study2 reported that by 2050, a quarter of UK football grounds will be flooded.
Events such as the wettest February on record in 2020 or the record-breaking rainfall seen on 3 October 2020, are expected to become more frequent by 2100 due to climate change.
Future climate change is projected to bring about a change in the intensity and seasonality of extreme weather, with more heavy rainfall occurring in the autumn.
What will be the impact on football pitches?
The exact impact will depend on the exposure and vulnerability of specific grounds and pitches to heavy rainfall. Your club may already have experienced flooding so you may have some understanding of whether this occurs during heavy rainfall or as a result of river flooding.
Where can I find out more?
BT Sport's Green Routine has shared a range of information, including a selection of videos, on climate change and football as well as other sports.
Our 2-page guide includes further information about the climate science around rainfall and flooding, as well as its potential impact on football.
Much of the advice for football clubs is also relevant to other sports such as cricket, rugby and tennis, so do take a look at the guidance above to see what your sports organisation can do to tackle climate change.
Let’s get ready for tomorrow. #GetClimateReady
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1Sports and Recreation Alliance (2014) Alliance Survey referenced in Rapid Transition Alliance: Playing against the clock (2020)
2Rapid Transition Alliance (Playing against the clock (2020)