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Uefa's Sustainability Efforts for Euro 2024: A Closer Look

Updated: Jun 15


 

Sustainability has been a central focus of Euro 2024 since the bidding process in 2018, with a strategy centred on environmental, social, and governance principles.

 

"There are two key aspects to environmentally sustainable sporting events," said Dr Hartmut Stahl, who contributed to a feasibility study on minimising the tournament's environmental impact. "First, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Second, we want to raise awareness about sustainability. In Europe, football is incredibly popular, making it an effective platform for promoting sustainability."

 

The strategy includes a €32 million (£27 million) investment, roughly 5% of UEFA's tournament budget, supporting initiatives such as:

 

·       Utilising existing stadiums and renewable energy for venues and headquarters.

·       Clustering fixtures to minimise travel for teams and fans.

·       Providing public transport passes to ticket holders.

·       Ensuring environmentally responsible sponsorships, excluding gas, oil, and utilities companies.

·       Reducing water consumption and using minimal, recyclable packaging for food.



Euro 2024 aims to generate significantly fewer emissions than the 2022 World Cup in Qatar—approximately 490,000 tonnes compared to 3.63 billion tonnes. According to the study, about 80% of these emissions are expected to come from fan travel. To address this, organisers have established a 'climate fund' to support sustainability efforts in German football. For every tonne of unavoidable carbon produced, €25 (£21) will be allocated to environmental projects in German amateur clubs, totalling an estimated €7 million (£5.9 million).


Travel poses a significant challenge for major tournament sustainability. UEFA has attempted to address this by clustering fixtures regionally, though team bases add complexity. For example, despite England's three group games being in the west, their camp is over 250 miles away in the east, leading to criticism for flying to Germany. Scotland, starting their tournament in Munich on 14 June, are based in the south and may face a 12-hour round trip to their second game in Cologne. Teams are discouraged from taking domestic flights, but the enforcement of this policy remains uncertain.



Source: Oeko-Institut, FIFA


What is Germany's Role in Leading Football Sustainability?

German football, much like Germany itself, has been a frontrunner in sustainability, supporting UEFA's efforts for a more sustainable tournament.

 

In 2020, the German Football Association (DFB) became the first national football body to adopt the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's Sports for Climate Action Framework.

 

The following year, the German Football League (DFL) announced that the Bundesliga's first and second divisions would be the first major professional football leagues to include mandatory sustainability criteria in their licensing regulations.

 

"We really see sustainability as a broader holistic framework," DFL head of sustainability Marika Bernhard told BBC Sport. "We see it not only as an obligation but a responsibility.

"The tool of club licensing is really important because, although it is unsexy to go the regulatory approach, it's really key to moving forward."

 

Among the 36 clubs, Mainz claims to have been carbon neutral since 2010, Freiburg built the country's first solar-powered football ground, and Wolfsburg topped the 2023 Sport Positive League.

 

However, for others, there is still work to be done, and only certain criteria in the licensing regulations currently result in sanctions. The DFL says this will increase in the coming years.

 

"From the beginning, we could really build on the great support of a large number of clubs," said Bernhard.

 

"We reach millions of people through football. Studies show that players, clubs, and leagues can really foster a behavioural change towards sustainability through education—provided that football also does its homework."


Source: UEFA


Why Does This Matter?

Germany is already feeling the effects of a changing climate.

 

The situation is complex, with various factors influencing weather patterns and cycles, but there are clear trends.

 

Last year was the hottest on record both globally, with an average temperature of 14.98°C—about 1.48°C warmer than the long-term post-industrial average—and in Germany, where the average temperature was 10.6°C.

 

Europe experienced unprecedented heatwaves that a scientific study said would have been "virtually impossible" without climate change.


Source: Deutscher Wetterdienst


Alongside rising temperatures, a warmer atmosphere can retain more moisture, resulting in increased precipitation in Germany.


In July 2021, severe floods tragically resulted in the deaths of more than 180 people. Research suggested that the climate crisis made such flooding up to nine times more likely, and it is likely that Europe will experience an increase in extreme weather events like storms and heatwaves. It is also warming at a rate nearly double the global average, highlighting its heightened vulnerability to climate change impacts.



Source: Deutscher Wetterdienst


When considering the sustainability of tournaments, the future appears dominated by expansion.

Euro 2028 is scheduled across the UK and Ireland, where public transport infrastructure often faces scrutiny. The 2026 World Cup spans North America, Euro 2032 will be jointly hosted by Italy and Turkey, and the 2030 World Cup is set to take place across three continents.


Projections for newly expanded UEFA club competitions indicate nearly two billion air miles from fan and team travel, resulting in approximately 480,000 tonnes of emissions.

"It's imperative that organisers of these events recognise sustainability planning as an integral part of sporting event management," emphasised Dr Stahl.

 

Bernhard stressed, "It's time for action. We must diligently safeguard our existence and the future of generations to come."

 

Germany's dedication to football sustainability is exemplified by Euro 2024's robust environmental initiatives. Spearheaded by a €32 million investment, approximately 5% of UEFA's budget, the tournament focuses on reducing emissions through renewable energy and sustainable stadium practices. Initiatives like the 'climate fund' for carbon offsetting demonstrate a proactive approach to environmental stewardship in German football.


Partnerships like the one between the Birmingham County FA and Climate Action for Associations highlight collaborative efforts to promote sustainable practices within football communities. These efforts not only mitigate environmental impact but also set a precedent for future tournaments worldwide.

 


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