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Carbon Trust unlaces the ‘carbon bootprint’ of watching football

12 August 2013

New research released by the Carbon Trust unveils the ‘carbon bootprint’ of watching football - on tablets, smartphones, televisions and at the stadium.

Manchester United's green team
Manchester United's green team

New research by the Carbon Trust unveils the ‘carbon bootprint’ of watching football. The research finds that when watching on your own then the lowest carbon way to watch football is by using a smartphone or tablet connected to broadband internet. Emissions for this can be as much as eight times lower than watching on television, mostly due to the smaller size of the screen.

Thanks to advances in technology more fans are choosing to follow their team live on computers, smartphones and tablets. In the UK 27 per cent of smartphone owners, and 63 per cent of tablet owners, are now using their device to watch live TV. For the upcoming season both Sky and BT are offering apps that allow football to be watched on personal devices.

But the research reveals that when it comes to impact on the climate, then streaming on a personal device can also be the highest carbon way to watch the broadcast of a game. If mobile data is used then this increases the carbon bootprint of watching the game by at least ten times compared to a broadband connection. Mobile data transmission can be very energy intensive - watching a whole game could have the same associated emissions as driving ten miles in an average petrol car.

In general sharing a television screen with multiple people, either at home or in the pub, remains the lowest carbon way to watch football per viewer. Different devices and screen sizes can vary greatly in energy consumption. With televisions LED screens are most energy efficient, followed by LCD and then plasma. Watching on a plasma screen could result in lifetime emissions a third higher than a similar sized LED television. Similarly a laptop could result in less than half the emissions compared to watching on a desktop computer.

Going to see a game live at the stadium is the most carbon intensive way of watching football – particularly for an away game – due to the impact of transport. But food and drink consumed during a game can still make a significant contribution to an individual bootprint, depending eating and drinking choices.

To show this impact of a stadium full of fans the Carbon Trust has worked with The FA to calculate the carbon bootprint of The FA Community Shield game between Manchester United and Wigan taking place on Sunday 11 August. This is estimated to be approximately 5,160 tonnes of carbon dioxide, with 5,000 tonnes of that amount coming from fan travel. This is equivalent to the total annual emissions from energy use for around 1,000 average UK households.

During 2010-11 The FA reduced its own carbon bootprint by more than 7 percent compared to 2008-09, allowing the organisation to achieve the Carbon Trust Standard. To drive these reductions The FA’s green team was able to coordinate action to lower carbon emissions by improving building management system controls for lighting, heating and ventilation, and upgrading to more efficient equipment. Initiatives to get staff involved through doing their bit included appointing an Energy Referee that would issue yellow and red cards for energy wasting offences.

To call on fans to take action and help reduce the bootprint of football, Gary Neville said: “When it comes to cutting your own carbon bootprint, it is all about understanding your impact and making sensible choices to reduce it. The best thing fans can do is share the experience of watching a match, either by watching the game with each other, or travelling together to the stadium.”

Michael Rea, Chief Operating Officer at the Carbon Trust added: “At the Carbon Trust we are working with a number of organisations to reduce the carbon bootprint of football. The FA, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers have all been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard, as have both Sky and BT.

“Our work helping teams, broadcasters and the telecoms industry to continuously reduce their environmental impact will in turn help to reduce the impacts of fans when they are watching football.”

Roger Maslin, Managing Director of Wembley National Stadium, said: “At Wembley we are committed to reducing our own impact on the environment and have achieved the Carbon Trust Standard for reducing our carbon emissions. We are continuing to find new ways to reduce our environmental impacts. Only a small part of the total carbon emissions associated with a game at Wembley are in our direct control, so we are calling on fans to do their bit and help to shrink the carbon bootprint of watching football.”

Keith Maloney, Managing Director of Maloney Associates, an independent energy and environmental management consultancy that has particular experience of working with football clubs, added: “Many of the leading football clubs have a passion and commitment to reduce carbon emissions, setting a good example for their fans. We have worked closely with both Manchester United and Liverpool FC to reduce their carbon footprints by 18 percent and 14 percent respectively.”

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