Manchester United and Forest Green Rovers are miles apart. Not only geographically but also in terms of their positions in the English football league structure. United remains one of the biggest sporting brands in the world, heavyweights in the Premier League, despite some disappointing showings in the recent seasons. Rovers, on the other hand, play in League Two, the fourth tier of English football.
Yet, these two clubs find themselves on one common ground at least – as case studies on the Sustainability in Sport website. This foundation was started by former United defender Gary Neville and Dale Vince, the founder of the Gloucestershire-based energy company Ecotricity. Vince also serves as the chairman of Forest Green Rovers, which happens to the first vegan football club in the world.
So how does the club justify the ‘green’ in its name? The entire club is powered by 100% green energy from Ecotricity. Some of it is generated from the solar panels on the stadium (The New Lawn) roof and the solar tracker at the ground’s entrance. The playing surface at the Lawn is sustainable and free of any pesticides. This organic pitch is maintained by a GPS-directed electric lawnmower, which runs on solar power.
The most fascinating aspect of the club is its strong belief in vegan food. The club offers freshly made vegan food to all its players, staff and the fans. In the world of football, a pint of beer, burgers and chips are synonymous with the fans. But at Forest Green Rovers, burgers, chips, red meat and stuffy snacks have been replaced with freshly made veggie burgers, vegan fajitas, and a revolving menu of locally-sourced vegan dishes, according to the club’s official website. In 2017, the club was officially recognised as the world’s first vegan football club after it received the Vegan Trademark from the Vegan Society.
The club’s use of renewable energy and vegan food also caught the eye of the United Nations (UN) last year as it was named the world’s first UN certified carbon-neutral football club. Next up for the Gloucestershire-based club is the construction of a new stadium called Eco Park. According to the club’s official website, the stadium is designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid and will be made almost entirely out of wood. When finished, the stadium will have a capacity of 5,000.