“Everyone relates us to our colours in Spain, we have to be a ‘green team’,” Antonio Ortega, manager of the Real Betis Balompié, joked during the EU Green Week in Brussels.

Sports events have an important environmental impact due to water and energy consumption, transport and waste generation. Betis is the first club in the Spanish Liga to have signed up to the United Nations Climate Neutral now initiative and is therefore committed to reducing its ecological footprint.

“It must be surprising for people to hear a football team talking about environmental issues, but we have been thinking a lot about how we can improve our management system in order to be more sustainable,” Ortega explained.

“We believe we have to be committed to this,” he stressed.

Betis manager explained how part of the stadium was built back in 1992 and therefore did not meet the sustainability standards the club aimed to achieve. Therefore, the club has been working over the past few years to improve waste management and energy efficiency in the venue.

The new area was conceived to be as sustainable as possible, including through the use of led lamps for the lighting and a better waste collection system, Ortega explained.

Moreover, Real Betis is building one of the largest training centres in Europe with more than 50 hectares dedicated to the junior teams of the club. The project aims to become carbon neutral by implementing environmentally friendly systems for waste management or electricity consumption.

The ground will count on solar panels to produce energy, the waste generated will be recycled and reused if possible and so will the water, and the transport inside the training centre will be electric, Ortega said.

Betis intend not only to make their own training ground more sustainable but also to help its neighbourhood, by building a solar plant which will produce renewable energy.

Football as a platform to raise awareness

Around 3.5 billion people watched the last World Cup. More than 40% of the population is said to be interested in football, no matter their social or economic status.

Aware of football’s potential as a perfect platform to raise awareness, the club has adopted a green strategy with sustainable-oriented programmes.

“Football is one of the greatest ‘speakers’ in European society, in the world,” Ortega explained, and although Betis does not have such a big audience, “we thought we have a responsibility to convince people they should be more committed to this matter.”

The club aims to go forward and is now working to analyse its ecological performance to keep improving. Betis wants to be a pilot programme and an inspiration for other football clubs to follow in its footsteps and become carbon neutral too.

In order to do that, Real Betis joined the ‘Life Tackle project‘ to work together with other organisations to improve sustainability in sports events.

“As football teams, we have to be part of these actions, because we are one of the greatest speakers in the society, that in the future will be beneficial for everyone,” Ortega stressed.

A few weeks ago, Real Betis players wore T-shirts made of plastic collected in the stadium during matches. Although it was a one-match thing, the club’s intention is for the whole football kit to be fully sustainable one day.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]