Football Fanatics: Forest Green Rovers’ green identity
Most professional soccer clubs preserve their uniqueness through decades and, occasionally, centuries. My favorite football club and current Premier League leaders, London’s Arsenal, adopted their uniform colors from local club Nottingham Forrest — and have sported the red and white combination ever since. In fact, the majority of successful and well-known soccer clubs have maintained their uniform and colors intrinsic to their milestones. Germany’s most successful professional club, Bayern Munich, has retained its signature red shorts and white shirts since its merger with Münchner Sport-Club in 1906. Italy’s most well-known club from Turin, Juventus, originally wore pink during its debut in 1900 before switching to their classical “bianconeri” or black and white stripes.
However, similar to traditional corporations, soccer organizations encounter takeovers and experience occasional club changes. Following a financial takeover, investors Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Dato Chan Tien Ghee infamously changed Cardiff City’s uniform colors from blue to red to transform the struggling club in 2012. Clubs experience turbulent changes or drastic measures under new owners. However, acquisitions don’t necessarily always translate to net negative transformations.
Third-division British football outfit Forest Green Rovers recently transitioned from a black-and-white uniform to the mesmerizing and alternative black and green striped kit following Ecotricity founder Dale Vince’s takeover in 2010. Under Vince’s stewardship, Forest Green Rovers has become one of the most eco-friendly football clubs in the world amid their climb up England’s professional leagues.
FIFA, the international soccer governing body, described Forest Green Rovers as “the greenest football club in the world” in 2017, following the club’s plethora of sustainable acts. From opting for electric vehicles to decrease carbon emissions to providing a 100% vegan menu during matches, Dale Vince’s Forest Green Rovers commits to its mission of benefiting the environment.
There is substantial evidence that the Forest Green Rovers have remained consistent with their mission, as the United Nations assured that the club’s carbon footprint has dwindled by 42% since the 2011-2012 season. Interestingly, the U.N. report mentioned that fans started following the club’s virtues and implemented eco-friendly notions.
Forest Green Rovers’ eco-friendly visions also seep onto the field. In 2011, Vince and the club started utilizing cow manure to create an organic pitch and installed solar panels around the stadium’s roof. The club recently announced its intentions to construct and move to new football grounds. The new “Eco Park” will harbor more green initiatives, including an exclusively wooden design, electric vehicle charging stations and 500 trees planted near the site to “promote biodiversity.” The innovative and unprecedented 5,000-seat project will continue cementing the club’s notoriously green identity and introduce eco-friendly initiatives to the mainstream.
Unsurprisingly, Forest Green Rovers promote liberal and left-wing ideologies in conjunction with their green endeavors. Vince infamously flew a Palestinian flag at a match to announce the club’s siding with Palestine and shared anti-Israel sentiments. Vale also called for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s help in providing aid to lower league football teams in England amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Regardless, Vince, and by proxy, Forest Green Rovers, remain adamant and unapologetic over their green identity and uniqueness. However, that doesn’t translate to welcoming attention from the media and critics.
Forest Green Rovers have been subject to scathing criticism from skeptics. Forest Green Rovers’ players were allegedly caught ordering fish, chicken and chips during their away trip to Macclesfield, despite the club promoting a vegan menu and lifestyle in home games. Additionally, owner Vince has been referred to as an anti-Zionist individual by Israeli media.
There might be some criticism and objection to Vince’s drastic takeover of Forest Green Rovers. Although the acquisition presented net positive eco-friendly changes, some may argue that the club ceased to represent the community and began to reflect Vince’s personal ideals.
Whatever the case, Forest Green Rovers will continue to grab headlines for their pioneering front on sustainability as they look to reach the top of English football.
Hector Almendarez is a junior writing about soccer clubs and their passionate fanbases. He is also the sports editor.