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Football teams use too many airline flights

The latest international tours are just the tip of the iceberg of a problem against sustainability projects

Football teams use too many airline flights  The latest international tours are just the tip of the iceberg of a problem against sustainability projects

Liverpool flew to Thailand and Singapore, Manchester United to Thailand and Australia, Crystal Palace, Leeds and Aston Villa to Australia, Tottenham Hotspur to South Korea, and Chelsea and Everton to the United States. But it is not only Premier League clubs, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and many other European clubs have also decided to take advantage of this summer break to organize international tours in what has proven to be one of the most profitable businesses in recent years. Their planes have generated tons of carbon dioxide, with Manchester United's friendly matches alone accounting for more than 1,800 tons, to put it bluntly, the equivalent of the annual electricity used by 350 homes or 400 cars.

This is a serious problem for a movement that has been making a strong commitment to sustainability in recent times, with jerseys made of recycled material and matches organized while minimizing impact, but at the same time contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. A study conducted by The Athletic pointed out that such air travel is often safely avoidable, as it involves short distances that could also be traveled by less polluting means. In the last few days, the Kylie Jenner and Taylor Swift  cases have underscored how private jets impact climate change, and football club charters fall into the same perimeter, moving players from one part of Europe to another several times in the same week for an increasing number of seasonal fixtures. More and more matches mean more and more travel and consequently less time to move from one place to another, thus necessitating private flights with disastrous environmental impact. 

But it is not only private flights that contribute to the environmental impact, major soccer events are also an obstacle to more sustainable soccer. The 2018 World Cup in Russia is estimated to have produced 2.16 tons of carbon dioxide while the one in Qatar, net of scandals over working conditions, is expected to weigh in at more than 3.5 tons despite organizers calling it carbon-neutral. In November 2021, FIFA, UEFA and the Premier League were some of the sports organizations to sign on to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) Framework for Climate Action for Sport, which set a goal of achieving zero net emissions by 2040. It is a promise that the Premier League has taken very seriously, recognizing the need for action on climate change and committing to reduce its global climate impact.

Compared to a few years ago, climate change is an increasingly pressing danger, and the public's awareness, including the football fans, has also changed. And teams are also striving to play a leading role, reducing their own environmental impact through targeted operations such as last year's match between Tottenham and Chelsea, which was the first zero-emissions professional game, or Brentford's choice to reuse for the current season the kit from the previous one, thus halving the production of jerseys. Or lastly the initiative of Reading, which made a jersey that through its striped design traces the changing temperatures in Reading during the 151 years of Reading Football Club's existence.