The football stadium’s pitch must be “irreproachable”, according to Nicolas Vincent, head of maintenance and works at FC Metz. A poorly maintained pitch risks being poorly rated by the Ligue, which organises a pitch championship each season.

The competition rewards the best pitches of clubs currently playing in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches. The colour and density of the pitch, the quality of the grass and flexibility and hardness of the ground are all among the evaluated criteria. To meet the criteria, impeccable maintenance of the pitch is required throughout the year – which comes at a cost.

“We heat it, we water it, and we light it. It may come as a shock, but it’s our work tool,” Metz’s maintenance and works manager explained. “We can’t afford to have a pitch that freezes, which would deteriorate for the rest of the championship,” he added.

European targets

However, the high energy cost that comes with having a flawless pitch goes against the European Climate Law’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, which the European Parliament and EU member states reached last week.

The EU-funded GREENFOOT project, supported by the European Football for Development Network (EFDN) and the Energy Institute at the Johannes Kepler University in Austria, aims to fund the renovation of sports buildings to ensure they consume less energy.

Other European clubs have also committed to ‘greening’ their practices. For instance, Liverpool FC was awarded the “Carbon of the Year” prize as it managed in 2018 to reduce its carbon footprint by 10% and cut by 99% its use of plastic in catering areas.

‘Subject to fairly strict rules’

In France, FC Metz recently made a few improvements to ensure its stadium reduces its carbon footprint.

For instance, the stadium is now connected to the Metz city network to benefit from urban heating produced by biomass. “It’s a cleaner source of heating for us,” said Vincent.

The resource for the club’s watering system is also “under control, we have it on-site,” said Vincent, adding that “we are fortunate in that the stadium is located on the Moselle water table, which is shallow and is always supplied with water.”

The necessary water from the water table irrigates the pitch’s grass and the drainage and filtration networks ensure the rest flows back into it.

“The authorities are vigilant on all these points. The regulations are evolving, they are really moving in the direction of the environment. We are subject to fairly strict rules,” stressed Vincent.

The problem of lighting

However, when it comes to lighting, things are a little more complicated, the manager admitted. The stadium’s new stand is imposing and prevents natural light from illuminating the pitch.

“We tried to work on a translucent area at the front of the roof to limit the structure’s impact on the pitch and to limit its needs for a complementary light therapy,” he explained.

With renovation work due to last another year, the club is eager to set an example in the green transition. “We are a showcase, we are very exposed, we must be exemplary,” Vincent said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]