‘Australian soccer must chase Green goals’
The 2019-2020 devastating bushfires in Australia left behind a trail of destruction and also took a toll on people’s lives.
Football was also significantly impacted by the bushfires, with high-level games standing postponed due to poor air quality caused by bushfire smoke and community clubs were advised to replace games and training sessions with indoor activities.
When the bushfire was on in full rage, the Australian professional soccer club Sydney FC’s Alexander Baumjohann likened playing football in Australia to “smoking 50 cigarettes a day” which speaks in volumes as to the extent of damage it can cause to the lungs.
Research conducted by the Australian Conservation Foundation, University of New South Wales School’s Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) and the Australian PV Institute (APVI) shows there is a key role for the Australian Football League (AFL), cricket and football clubs, associations and national governing organizations to play in mitigating the impacts of climate change in Australia.
In January 2020, Football Australia (FA) convened a National Bushfires Working Group with a focus on raising money for first responders and to rebuild communities, but no mention was made about how climate change had a crucial role to play in the bushfire devastation. Similarly, climate change, carbon emissions or environmental sustainability do not appear in the FA’s 2020 Annual Review and, although some of the State football federations have installed solar photovoltaics (PV) on some of their buildings, there is a lack of any coherent plan to make the sport more sustainable.
Internationally, many football clubs are showing more leadership in the fight against climate change something on which the Australian football clubs are not taking much initiative.
The research paper stated that in the United Kingdom, the professional football club Forest Green Rovers has been certified by the United Nation’s (UN’s) ‘Climate Neutral Now’ initiative as carbon neutral across all its operations and has been fully powered by Green Energy since 2011, including 180 rooftop solar panels that provide 10 percent of the club’s electricity use.
The Forest Green Rovers Football Club is a professional football club based in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England (UK). The team competes in League Two, the fourth tier of English football, and have played their home games at the New Lawn since 2006, when they moved from their original home at The Lawn Ground.
The New Lawn is a football stadium in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire in England (UK). It has been the home stadium of League Two club Forest Green Rovers since 2006. The stadium has a capacity of 5,147, of which 2,000 is seated.
In Spain, the LaLiga team Real Betis has also joined the UN initiative offsetting 100 percent of their scope and scope emissions. Real Betis has also launched the ‘Forever Green’ sustainability platform and plans to install solar on their residence rooftop – Benito Villamarín Stadium.
Real Betis or Betis is a Spanish professional football club based in Seville in the autonomous community of Andalusia in Spain. Founded on September 12th, 1907, it plays in LaLiga (men’s top professional football division of the Spanish football league system), having won the Segunda División in the 2014-2015 seasons.
Benito Villamarín Stadium is in Seville, Spain, and the home of Real Betis since its completion in 1929. It has a capacity of 60,720.
In the Netherlands, the Johan Cruijff ArenA has installed 4,200 lightweight, thin film solar panels and 2.8 MWh of battery storage 9.
The 55,500-capacity Johan Cruijff ArenA is the main stadium of the Dutch capital City of Amsterdam and the home stadium of football club AFC Ajax since its opening. Built from 1993 to 1996 at a cost equivalent to €140 million, it is the largest stadium in the country.
In Germany, the 1270 kW of solar installed by the German professional sports club Werder Bremen generates goodwill and great publicity as well as enough energy to power 400-500 homes.
Werder Bremen is a German professional sports club based in Bremen, Germany.
The 42,358-capacity Weserstadion is a multipurpose stadium in Bremen, Germany. The Weserstadion is scenically situated on the North bank of the Weser River and is surrounded by lush green parks. The city center is only about a kilometre away. It is the home stadium of German Bundesliga 2 club Werder Bremen.
Case study buildings (rooftop solar benefits)
In general, the best financial returns for rooftop solar are achieved by consuming as much of the generated electricity as possible on site. In a football stadium, powering floodlights for evening matches is challenging without battery storage, but some venues have significant daytime consumption, including lighting, heating and cooling for offices, clubrooms and other facilities.
State Football Federations
Football New South Wales is based at Valentine Sports Park in Glenwood (Australia) which enjoys indoor and outdoor sports facilities, a 20m pool, teaching, medical, office, and catering facilities.
There is a small rooftop solar installation, but the research conducted shows sufficient unused roof area across the complex for an additional 401 kW of solar.
Northern NSW Football
Northern New South Wales Football (NNSWF) has its administrative headquarters, along with extensive training facilities, turf and synthetic pitches, meeting rooms and function facilities, at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.
There is good solar potential on the rooftops of the facilities.
The Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility is a football facility located in Speers Point, NSW. Developed in 2014, it consists of two full-sized synthetic football fields, 10 five-a-side football fields, an administration building, a 120-space vehicle parking area, and associated infrastructure.
Football Victoria (FV) has its administrative headquarters at St Kilda Road in Melbourne (Australia) in a high-rise multioccupancy building.
The research conducted showed the capacity on the roof for a 38 kW solar system although the 49 MWh of energy generated annually would only make a small contribution to the total electricity consumption of the building.
In the longer term, Football Victoria’s planned development of a new facility to provide a home for the Matildas (read Australian women’s national soccer team) as well as the State federation provides a superb opportunity to demonstrate the value of putting energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable building practices at the heart of a new sports facility.
Football Queensland is based at Meakin Park, a multisport facility which they share with rugby league, rugby union and baseball. The research conducted showed that this complex has rooftop potential for solar arrays with combined capacity of 224 kW, generating 331 MWh annually.
Football Queensland’s key infrastructure priorities – a Center of Excellence for women’s football, regional high performance centers and a boutique multisport stadium – could all provide opportunities to showcase the benefits of investing in substantial energy efficiency and solar generation.
Football South Australia
The governing body of South Australian Football (FSA) is based at Coopers Stadium, which is also the home ground to the A-League team, Adelaide United FC.
The rooftop of the stands at Coopers Stadium have supporting metal structures and cable that obstruct parts of the roof area which will have some shading effect on a rooftop solar system. However, the available space allows for an estimated 76 kW solar array, producing 102 MWh of electricity per year.
Coopers Stadium is a multipurpose stadium in Hindmarsh, an inner Western suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. It is the home of the Australian A-League team, Adelaide United. The stadium has a capacity of 16,500, of which 15,000 is seated.
The Adelaide United Football Club is a professional soccer club based in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. The club participates in the A-League under licence from Football Federation Australia.
Some of Football South Australia’s additional facilities, including the 1,000-capacity VALO Football Centre boast modest rooftop solar on their pavilions, while further deployment opportunities exist at the West Beach Parks Football Centre, approximately 10 km away from Coopers Stadium, which is home to the Adelaide Lady Reds W-League team.
The West Beach Parks Football Centre (formally Adelaide Shores) boasts South Australia’s first full-sized synthetic pitch. The venue provides floodlighting in excess of 300 lux, four change rooms, PA system, bar/canteen facilities, 200-seat covered grandstand and a function center which can accommodate up to 80 people.
Football West is planning a new State Football Centre at Queens Park and has raised half the estimated $32.5 million required for the development. While the concept images for the development include a small rooftop solar array, no details are yet available but it is to be hoped that the final designs incorporate a solar system that fully utilizes the available roof area.
Football Northern Territory
The headquarters of Football Northern Territory (FNT) is located in the ‘Italian Club’. The FNT office building rooftop has an existing solar system, but the available roof space could support an additional 210 kW solar system, capable of generating 320 MWh of electricity per year.
Larrakia Park Stadium in Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia) boast two football pitches and a 1,120-seater grandstand. The rooftop of the grandstand has the potential for a 196 kW solar system, capable of generating 304 MWh of electricity per year.
Football Tasmania (FT) is based at King George V (KGV) Park in Rocks, Australia. The rooftops of the headquarters building and grandstand combined have capacity for a modest 71 kW solar system, capable of producing 90 MWh of electricity per year.
Capital Football is the governing body for football in the Australian Capital Territory, where football has the highest participation among organized sports and has its headquarters at Football House in Deakin (Australia), which has a large and uncluttered roof, with potential for a 151 kW solar system.
Capital Football also manages the Hawker Football Centre which has a flat rooftop on the Western side of the field covering the entrance and exit, bathrooms and canteen, with potential for a modest 50 kW solar array, capable of supplying 67 MWh of electricity per year.
The research analysis concluded by stating that the Australian Soccer has an opportunity to play a role in slowing global warming and mitigating the existential threats that it faces. It should start by powering its rooftops with solar power.
The Australian Conservation Foundation Campaigns Director, Paul Sinclair, noted, “From the biggest stadium to the smallest clubrooms, Australian sports can work together to become powered by 100 percent clean energy. To become pollution-free in the next decade, Australians need to work together and get on with the job of making our country a clean energy superpower. That includes making Australia’s stadiums and clubrooms renewable-powered and energy efficient.”
Added Sinclair, “The solutions to do this are available right here, right now. Moving to clean energy creates jobs, cuts energy costs and gives Australian rivers, forests and wildlife a chance to thrive. Sports in Australia face a growing threat from climate change. Driven mainly by burning fossil fuels like coal and gas, global warming is drying out sports grounds, disrupting events and increasing health risks for players. The costs of missing the opportunities before us are huge. More catastrophic bushfires and weather events will destroy homes of people and wildlife.”
He concluded by stating, “Extreme and deadly heat waves will threaten the lives of Australians, including sports people and fans at elite and community levels. At its best, Australian sport brings people together to achieve great things. Now is one of those moments when Australia needs its sportspeople and fans to play like a great team. We believe Australian sports can be powered by 100 percent clean energy by 2030.”
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