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Football Focus: Carbon cost of Premier League clubs’ pre-season friendlies under scrutiny

At the end of 2021 the Premier League signed up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, which brings together sports organisations from all over the world to achieve climate change goals.

At the time the Premier League pledged to reduce 50 per cent of its own emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.  Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said: ‘Working alongside the UN and other leading sports organisations, we aim to help achieve the targets set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement for a low carbon future.’

More recently however, the profligacy of some of the Premier League’s leading clubs has come into question. An investigation by BBC Sport found that over a two-month sample period this year, there were 81 individual short-haul domestic flights made by Premier League teams to and from 100 matches, the shortest being just 27 minutes.

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Now, Global data visualisation experts infogr8 have revealed new statistics on the carbon cost of the pre-season matches played overseas by Premier League teams. Their visual ‘scrolling story’ shows how transport for just one Friendly between Liverpool and Manchester United in Bangkok emitted the same amount of CO2 as three entire domestic seasons. That’s 7,000 times more CO2 than in a domestic match (and that doesn’t include the travelling fans).

Data visualisation specialist Stewart Pickering, who works with organisations including Friends of the Earth, Mars Petcare and City of London Corporation generating data-driven stories such as this, said: ‘Bringing powerful data like this to life isn’t about being the ‘woke brigade’, it’s about expecting better. Football has the potential on every continent to be a beacon of hope and set an example of how to run greener global events. Hopefully these stats will hit home how damaging the sport can be if clubs and their governing bodies don’t take more responsibility.

‘We know that football clubs have their own sustainability strategies, but most could do a lot more to bring them to life if they were truly committed to reducing their carbon footprint. We have to be realistic: larger clubs who benefit from huge overseas sponsorship deals are less likely to change their behaviour anytime soon, but I’d like to think that forward-thinking clubs like Brighton who have less of an overseas fan-base might do the right thing, stay one step ahead and start to curb unnecessary matches abroad.’

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