This Sunday, the English Premier League (EPL), the world’s most popular soccer league, concludes its season with the championship still in the balance. Fans the world over will be glued to their TVs to see whether Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester City bring home the crown (ManCity is in the driver’s seat as of this writing). Aston Villa is at the other end of the EPL spectrum, barely above the dreaded “relegation zone” (each year, the teams that finish in the bottom 3 of the 20 team league get “relegated” to the league below the EPL). But, Villa is at/near the “top of the table” in terms of the EPL’s environmental sustainability rankings.

Birmingham’s Villa Park (cap. 42,000) has been home to Aston Villa, a storied English top tier side, since 1897. While it is well-known for hosting World Cup (1966) and Olympic (2012) matches, not surprisingly, its strong, forward-leaning sustainability efforts have gotten far less attention. And that’s a shame because the club, owned by American Randy Lerner, has made great strides. Some highlights of Villa Park’s greening efforts, per a 2013 Green Sports Alliance report, include:

    • 100% carbon neutrality at the stadium. Villa identified their carbon output and have offset their emissions with credits supporting renewable energy projects around the globe.
    • A 70% recycling rate.
    • Comprehensive water sustainability plan highlighted by a new rainwater-collection system on one section. This system provides water for irrigation around the facility and at a nearby garden.
    • Local sourcing of food supplies at the stadium’s restaurants, which purchase up to 85% of their produce from local vendors.
    • Energy-efficiency measures – including remotely controlled heating, lighting and electrical systems – have led to energy usage reductions every year since 2004.

But Aston Villa is not the only EPL club to take an innovative approach to sustainability…..

    • Manchester United, the most decorated club on the pitch over the past 30+ years (although they’ve had a very rough 2013-2014 campaign), and its iconic Old Trafford home ground is the largest in the EPL with a capacity of almost 76,000. You’d expect them to go green in a big way–as they do everything big–and you’d be right. They’ve taken an aggressive stand with greening their supply chain, engaging over 70 of its suppliers from 2009-2013. ManU’s training center at Carrington, built in 2000 in an environmentally sensitive area, features a lagoon with reed bed technology. Dirty water is cleaned and recycled in order to provide water for the pitches.
    • Chelsea (West London) deserves applause for its commitment to treat “all relevant legal and environmental legislation and guidelines as a minimum requirement and will seek to exceed them (my emphasis) wherever possible.” Now these may just be words, but I’ve not heard of a sports team that has taken the position of exceeding government’s environmental regulations. We will follow Chelsea to see if they make good on this promise.
    • Liverpool FC and Everton FC, heated rivals in Liverpool (their  stadiums are separated by only a half mile), are working with private contractor Housing Maintenance Solutions, to improve the transportation routes from the city center (or centre if you’re in England) to Liverpool’s Anfield and Everton’s Goodison Park . This will result in significant reductions in transportation-related carbon emissions (the biggest source of emissions in sports).

Considering that all of the stadiums mentioned here are at least 105 years old (Old Trafford is the baby; Stamford Bridge is the oldest as it was christened in 1876), the idea that only new stadiums can be energy efficient is, to use a British phrase, rubbish!

 

 

 

 


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