Let’s score a goal for planet with a net-zero football match

Gary Hughes, Sky Sports Director of Football, discusses how sports can mobilise greater levels of climate action, starting with the world's first net-zero football match.

Let’s score a goal for planet with a net-zero football match

Climate change is a defining challenge for our time. As the damage and risk posed by global warming continues to increase, all parts of society will need to play their part in tackling it, including football.

A recent study by academic and author David Goldblatt revealed that by 2050, it is estimated that almost one in four English Football League grounds can expect flooding every year.

So, what can we do? We certainly all have our own part to play in combating climate change and protecting our planet for future generations. But with an issue as big as this it is often hard to know where to start.

Last week we announced plans to host the world’s first major net-zero carbon football match – Game Zero, in partnership with Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur and supported by the UK government as hosts of COP26. With Game Zero we hope to inspire football fans to make simple changes to help reduce their carbon footprint, such as travelling to the match on public transport.

We know that it will take more than one match to make a difference, but it is a big step in the right direction. As well as using the match as a platform to communicate with fans about climate change, we are hoping to inspire the sports sector We have worked with carbon measurement specialists RSK to capture the footprint of a Premier League match – having this information to work from is critical if we are to establish reduction targets for the future. We hope that by setting a precedent and sharing our knowledge, we can encourage others across the sport to take on the challenge and look for ways to help drive us towards a zero-carbon future. Because, quite simply, we can’t do it on our own.

At Sky we want to use our reach and voice. Game Zero is an opportunity to use the nation’s favourite sport to reach out to an audience which might not have considered the impact football is having on the environment, and how it could be affected by climate change if we all don’t take action. We cannot underestimate the power of using sport and football’s influential role models to nudge the public to consider what they can do to help.

There are lots of ways sports fans can reduce their carbon footprint. And these actions don’t need to be big – even just a few small changes such as repairing and re-using kits and old sports equipment, using less plastic, and rethinking how you get to the game can make a big difference. It all helps.

Game Zero is just one part of Sky’s wider commitment to becoming net-zero carbon by 2030. The match will take place just a few weeks ahead of the UN’s COP26 Climate Change Conference, of which Sky is a Principal Partner and the Media Partner. Here at Sky Sports we’ve made great strides in reducing our own environmental impact over the last year, receiving albert certification for all our live host broadcasts, switching all our trucks to biofuel and becoming the first broadcaster to sign up to the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework.

But we need significant change from society, business and government if we are to achieve net-zero by 2050. So, whilst we know we can’t change everything and everyone’s behaviour at once, we are confident that we can educate and support people to join the journey with us and work with us to make some much-needed, changes.

We hope that by using the power of sport, we can inspire and support football fans to make more climate-friendly choices and help protect our planet for future generations. Because this is our home and the opportunity to save it is now.

Gary Hughes, Sky Sports Director of Football

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