In modern football, clubs often struggle to break through the noise and market their brand. Some introduce psychedelic mascots while others sign John Terry. For Forest Green Rovers FC, who will kick-off their first season in the Football League next week, their marketing ethos is more of a political ethical stand.
The club’s first season was in 1889; its founder was a local clergy member. Throughout its history, The Little Club on the Hill played in regional leagues but never making the jump into the Football League. This century, it had fallen on hard times. By 2010 it had struggled to stay up and remain financially viable. The Board approached a local businessman named Dale Vince for a cash infusion and after he stabilized the club, he became the club’s Chairman.
It is important to pause here and discuss Dale Vince. For those unaware, Vince is the founder of Ecotricity, a green energy company that produces its energy primarily from wind power. Vince has used a wind turbine in the 1980s to power an old army truck outside his home and used that concept to build more wind-monitoring equipment. It is a leader in the green energy field and Vince himself is a strong believer in environmental stewardship. A former “New Age traveler”, he immediately began to shape the club around his vision for a better world. As he told The Guardian, “I thought it was an opportunity to take our message to a new audience”.
A Green Club in Uniform and Ethic
First up was food. In the 2010-2011 season, Vince placed a rule on his players that red meat was no longer allowed in team meals. The ban slowly extended to white meat, then fish, then milk and cheese. By 2014, the player’s diet at the training ground and stadium was completely vegan. Vince himself is vegan but also wanted his players to eat food that wouldn’t slow down performance. The ethos extended to the fans as well – as of 2015, all menus inside the stadium are vegan.
The next step in the environmental make-over is a major one. Currently, the club is building a new stadium with a unique design element – it is composed entirely of wood. Not since Noah’s Ark has such an ambitious project been proposed. The stadium will be the centerpiece of an environmentally friendly community park that will contain conference and health facilities. Why wood though? As Vince said in the designer’s press release:
The importance of wood is not only that it’s naturally occurring, it has very low embodied carbon – about as low as it gets for a building material.
And when you bear in mind that around three-quarters of the lifetime carbon impact of any stadium comes from its building materials, you can see why that’s so important – and it’s why our new stadium will have the lowest embodied carbon of any stadium in the world.
It will be interesting to see how Forest Green does in League Two this season. Regardless, it is already making an impact in the Football League for the healthier.