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French football is chasing its delay in ecological matters

Greener is the lawn than environmental action in Ligue 1: pressed by the context of last winter's energy crisis, French football is trying, with difficulty, to catch up with its ecological transition.

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French football is chasing its delay in ecological matters

Greener is the lawn than environmental action in Ligue 1: pressed by the context of last winter's energy crisis, French football is trying, with difficulty, to catch up with its ecological transition.

Sport, a “showcase” of energy sobriety? Presented by the Minister of Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher while inaugurating the renovation work on the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg, the image is charming. The reality is more mixed.

“If sport is an incommensurable showcase for conveying messages, we can be skeptical about taking football as an example of sobriety because its activity as such generates resources and ecological harm,” explains Aurélien. François, lecturer at the University of Rouen, specialist in the environmental responsibility of clubs.

For Antoine Miche, founder and director of Football Écologie France, an association which helps football players on the issue, the observation is clear: “on the ecological transition, we are starting from very, very far away, overall the clubs are 15 years behind” .

In terms of form, certain controversies have helped little, such as that of the sand yacht. By ironically proposing this mode of transport, former PSG coach Christophe Galtier underlined how difficult it was in Ligue 1 to consider the train rather than the plane, favored by more than 80%.

Supporter travel

Basically, the Professional Football League (LFP) and the clubs highlight the measures taken at the end of 2022 as part of the sobriety plan, which allowed a 12% reduction in electricity and gas consumption.

Thus, the lighting of pre-matches and post-matches during the day was reduced by 50%, that at night by 30%; 80% of lawn heating clubs have reduced their consumption; consumption linked to light therapy on lawns has also been reduced by 42%...

For Antoine Miche, if there are “interesting” projects, all this is “not structuring”: “these are drastic changes that must be made, and not changes that save a few percentages of energy and, behind, a little CO2.”

If the sobriety plan focused on energy consumption, the carbon problem lies elsewhere: more than 80% of the football industry's emissions come from the movement of supporters.

If the League did set up a communication campaign to encourage sustainable mobility last season, Antoine Miche calls on clubs and local authorities to be “much more proactive”.

For him, “the only positive development in recent months is the increase in environmental criteria from 3 to 10% for obtaining the LFP club license, (...) but it remains 10%, so the clubs put more energy on other subjects.

The club license, mandatory to receive part of the audiovisual rights, is based on four families of criteria, ranging from media installations to the quality of the pitch and the reception of spectators. In an annual report published at the end of November, the LFP notes that the CSR (environmental) criteria are the least respected, at only 56%, and deplores: “the expectations of the LFP are not well met by the clubs”.

“All of this lacks ambition,” says Antoine Miche, who highlights the absence of a policy in terms of reducing carbon emissions: “We could announce 'the LFP aims for an X% reduction in its CO2 emissions by 2030' '. It lacks leadership and it is still the job of the LFP to involve all its clubs in social and environmental issues.”

Carrying out a carbon footprint is now one of the club license criteria, but only nine clubs out of 18 already have one, such as PSG, Lille, Rennes, Montpellier and Strasbourg. None wanted to make it public.

Some have already planned to do so in 2024 (Clermont, Marseille or Monaco). Others not yet, like in Nice where the question is “under evaluation”.

The Olympic year could be an opportunity to accelerate, according to the government, which plans to sign a charter on the reduction of CO2 emissions from professional clubs as part of their travel.

Urgent progress according to researcher Aurélien François, because “if we do not attack the model itself, the question arises of maintaining the social utility of such sporting events”.

Next March, the example could come from the French team which, during a friendly match in Lyon, has planned to take the TGV. A pledge to Kylian Mbappé and others for making us prefer the train.

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