Sustainability and Fulham
As discussion around sustainability within football grows, at the Trust we’ve been starting to discuss the direct implications that could fall upon Fulham in future.
Climate change is touching every aspect of human life and sport is no exception. Many Clubs in England are taking positive steps to address issues around sustainability, which can be seen in the Sports Positive Green Table which is based on the use of clean energy, energy efficiency and other positive environmental behaviours.
The Football Supporters Association (FSA), recently set up a Green Working Group in partnership with Pledgeball. Sarah Keig, FST Board Member and Fulham Lillies Chair, along with Rach Stevens-Hall and Amelia Armstong from the Fulham Lillies have joined the working group to better understand what steps supporters can take to reduce the impact of Global Warming. The work that is being done by Pledgeball (pledgeball.org) encourages football supporters to consider their own lifestyle choices and how gains can be achieved by the smallest of changes. To date Pledgeball has delivered a saving of 23,976, 132 kg of CO2 equivelance per year, that’s the equivelant to over 5,200 cars being taken off the road. The website has lots of great ideas and we would encourage you to check it out.
The FST will be discussing sustainability with the Club at our next meeting as we look to engage with Fulham on how we can work together going forward.
To understand more on the topic we spoke to Fulham fan, Trust member and editor of The Sustainability Report, Matthew Campelli, about the possible implications for our club. He has penned these words, raising important issues of consideration for us.
“You can, if you like, examine all the clubs in the league and for all their successes, and with the utmost respect for them, not one of them has quite the feel of the club that plays at Craven Cottage by the river.”Jimmy Hill
He had a way with words, Jimmy Hill. And perhaps none potentially more resonant for Fulham fans than this beautiful little passage that was tucked away in one of his many ‘Chairman’s Chatter’ columns, written in the matchday programme for an October 1996 meeting with Doncaster Rovers.
After a decade of misery on and off the pitch, our iconic chairman was encouraging the faithful to look ahead to better times. ‘100 years at Craven Cottage and still here’ was emblazoned on the programme’s front cover, and, after years of fighting for the future of the club and its continued residence at our cherished home ground, Hill was adamant that we had turned a corner. Our generation, and future generations, of Fulham fans would be enjoying football on the Stevenage Road for the next century.
For almost 30 years, that promise has been made good. The most successful period in our history has since been written at Craven Cottage (excluding our brief exile in Shepherd’s Bush) – a stadium that, aside from the original cottage and parts of the Johnny Haynes Stand, is totally unrecognisable from ground on which Donny Rovers were vanquished 3-1 (Conroy, Scott, Carpenter) all those years ago.
At nine years old in 1996, my recollection of that period is simply cherishing Saturday afternoons with my parents in the enclosure. It’s only as I reflect on this now, while sifting through my dad’s old programmes and TOOFIF copies, that I grasp the severity of the challenges in the years leading up to that time. The club was on the brink of eviction from the Cottage, only allowed to stay there through the sheer will and dedication of individuals like Hill and the Fulham 2000 fan group.
I fear the time has come for everyone connected to the club to come together again and defend our beloved Cottage against an even greater threat than property developers. This threat, unlike others, can’t be negotiated with, scared away or ignored—it’s climate change and, more precisely, the extreme weather impacts it brings.
A report published a couple of years ago highlighted how climate change is affecting sports, particularly in the UK where more frequent and severe flooding is a major concern. The report assessed risks for all 92 football league grounds, and, you guessed it, Craven Cottage is under significant threat.
The report was widely-publicised and I held out hope that the club would take action to address its own environmental impact and use its position to advocate more broadly. After all, aside from the real and ongoing threat from climate change, our club is intrinsically linked to the natural environment. It’s part of our identity and should remain so. The matchday experience for both home and away fans is incomplete without a stroll through the greenery of Bishops Park. A breakdancing badger walks around the pitch before kickoff. And how many of us have looked out onto the river in despair, contemplating the start of the second half 2-0 down?
Alas, that action is yet to be forthcoming. In its 2022 ranking of Premier League football clubs’ sustainability credentials, which assesses their environmental performance, the Sport Positive League had Fulham joint-third worst with 10 points out of a possible 27. Relegation form. And, most embarrassingly, a long way off Brentford and that lot down the road.
Even for passionate fans who have stood by Fulham through thick and thin, climate change and environmental sustainability may seem somewhat distant from the club’s core priorities. While acknowledging that there are pressing concerns like ticket prices, it’s really important to recognise the real threat that climate change poses to our beloved sport, club and home.
Having worked in sports and sustainability for a number of years, I understand it can feel abstract. But this isn’t about distant images of polar bears balancing on melting glaciers. It’s about the genuine and present danger to the sport we love and our club’s existence. Consider a future where the club can no longer play at Craven Cottage, robbing our children and grandchildren of the same experiences we cherish—the walk across the park, the hopeful or despairing gaze at the river. Imagine them having to watch Billy breakdance glumly at Loftus Road or another dreaded groundshare.
Fulham Football Club, both as a club and a fanbase, can’t single-handedly solve climate change. But we have a duty to speak up and take action on an issue that is likely to significantly impact something we all hold dear.
To conclude his programme notes, Jimmy Hill reflected on what needed to be done in the aftermath of securing the Cottage’s future.
“So how do those of us alive and ready to carry on the tradition give thanks for the past, the fun we’ve had, the games and the precious victories that have been won, the hours when we have cursed, forgiven and praised our heroes of so many generations of players who have passed us by so readily?
“I think the answer is very clear and is this: having been given the opportunity, a goalscoring chance if you like, we make sure we provide the chance for future generations to continue to enjoy the frustrations and fun by the river. Our duty to our ancestors is to make sure that the new foundations are in place to survive at least another century.”
It’s on us, collectively, to fulfil that vision.
We would be interested to hear any views from our members about this article and the wider topic of sustainability in football. If you have any feedback or feel like you would like to know more about this subject, please do get in touch.