The SD Europe report, seen by EURACTIV, was developed together with the association’s national members. SD Europe also works with the EU and UEFA to make football more sustainable.

“It’s clear many organised supporters are aware of the peril we all face from the climate crisis and are prepared to help,” said the chief executive of SD Europe, Antonia Hagemann.

There remains a lot to do in that regard, as the sport has been a subject of criticism by environmentalists because football teams tend to utilise large numbers of short-haul flights, while stadiums consume large amounts of energy and produce massive amounts of waste.

There are also the social and environmental implications of football merchandise produced abroad but sold at a premium.

Organisations like the Football Shirt Collective have long sounded the alarm on the environmental impacts of replica team shirts. The organisation reports that an estimated 500,000 fibres of polyester are released into the oceans every time a football shirt is washed.

The associations under the umbrella of SD Europe found an increase in the number of initiatives that tackle environmental issues but concluded that they were far from enough.

The few that exist are hampered by communication issues and lack of data about the sport’s ecological footprint, the report said.

Germany leader of the pack

Germany boasts a long and storied history of private associations, which also applies to the country’s favourite national sport, resulting in a strong football fan association culture.

“Football is firmly anchored in our society,” said Fritz Keller, head of the German football league in 2020. However, although football is so entrenched in society, environmental concerns have not always shaped the discussion.

Ecological sustainability concerns are a relatively new phenomenon among German football fans, Helen Breit, first chair of long-standing football fan association “Unsere Kurve” (Our Stands) told EURACTIV. She noted that they only emerged one and half years ago, linking it to the rise of the Friday for Future movement.

Starting in 2020, a group of football fan associations in Germany got serious about tackling the climate crisis and banded together to come up with a common approach to enhancing sustainability in the various leagues, as EURACTIV reported.

August saw the launch of what Unsere Kurve calls ‘DIY workshops’ that seek to empower fans with tools and handbooks to serve as “multipliers” to educate their communities, Breit explained. She added that these were being offered below cost.

Two of the DIY workshops seek to educate community members on how to assess their respective environmental footprints and further educate their peers about the ecological impacts of fan merchandise, also using the provided digital ‘handbook’ they can consult at any time.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]