The majority of football fans are aware of the importance of protecting the environment, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Institute of Management of Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa, Italy). The survey was published as part of the Life TACKLE project, aimed at improving environmental management of football.

But the study also shows that although fans are in favour of the football industry being more committed to environmental protection, they do not fully appreciate their own ecological impact and the importance of their individual commitment.

For its study, the research team interviewed more than 1,400 football fans attending matches between Italian Serie A teams and UEFA League of Nations matches in Italy and Sweden. The fans were asked about their knowledge and views on climate issues and environmental protection.

Most football fans support protecting the environment

Asked about their knowledge of environmental issues in general – climate change, waste management, air and water pollution, renewable energy – three-quarters of the football fans surveyed consider themselves well-informed.

More than 90% of those questioned said they were in favour of protecting the environment, fighting global warming and reducing pollution, according to the study.

Most fans (86%) said that the football industry should be committed to environmental protection and also that they would be more satisfied if the football matches they attended were environmentally friendly.

Fans are unaware of football’s environmental impact

But when it comes to identifying the various measures to be taken to contribute to this, the study points out that football fans lack intuition. “There is a clear misalignment between the real impacts of football matches (…) and the perception of the fans,” according to the report.

For the fans, major international bodies such as the European Commission, FIFA and UEFA have a particular responsibility to address the problem and provide solutions, while football clubs and stadium owners, despite being responsible for implementing the various environmental initiatives, should be less pressurised.

For the vast majority of fans, football clubs can reduce their environmental impact in terms of waste reduction (89%) and plastic consumption (88%). The same fans say they are prepared to limit food waste during matches, collect and recycle their waste and even buy biodegradable cups and plates.

However, energy consumption for stadium lighting, water irrigation and the transport of hundreds of thousands of fans every year – all of which have the greatest environmental impact – remain largely off their radar.

Stuck in their ways

The environmental impact of transport between matches is something the fans seem to have particular difficulty grasping.

The majority of spectators (64%) say they are prepared to cycle or use public transport to get to the stadium, while 20% of the fans refuse to do so. However, almost two-thirds of those surveyed always use the car to get to the stadium. As a reminder, car travel by French spectators generated at least 35,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2011.

The fear of having their bikes stolen at the stadium and fears linked to road safety explain the great reluctance of fans towards this form of soft mobility, explained the study’s authors, who recommended that bike racks, video surveillance measures and improved infrastructures with safe bike lanes would encourage football fans to travel in a more eco-friendly way.

However, nearly half (48.4%) of the respondents believe that changing their individual behaviour would not change anything, while 60.7% say that the various measures and initiatives will remain vain as long as there is no collective effort.

Another important element is the significant lack of communication on the part of the various players in the game. “Clubs and stadium managers, in particular, should do more to make their role in the transformation of football more visible” and remind fans that every action in favour of the environment is crucial, the study’s authors concluded.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]