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World Cup Football’s Environmental Footprint

 The world is in the grip of football fever once again with the ‘Football World Cup’ taking place in Russia. This truly global sports event alone is likely to attract the attention of well over 1 billion viewers across the world. The last football world cup in Brazil, attracted 1.01 billion viewers 4 years ago. Any event of such a magnitude is likely to have significant environmental consequences. The Russian government and FIFA (The Fédération Internationale de Football Association) have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure that they provide the most stunning experience while remaining environmentally-friendly.


The world cup in Brazil is claimed to be the greenest and most environmentally friendly world cup from all of the previous 19 events. The Russian government has claimed to be going even further. Carbon emissions (up to 2.17 m tonnes CO2e) directly or indirectly associated with the event’s activities will be reduced from four years ago.


With more than 1.5 million additional visitors for the world cup, the energy demand across all sectors in Russia is expected to increase tremendously. However, impacts on energy demand is not restricted to Russia. Increased viewing and associated activities will push up the energy consumption all over the world.  The additional energy used during the last world cup would’ve been able to fuel 260 million cars and trucks in the United States for an entire day, or the equivalent of what 560,000 cars use in a year.


The transport sector is envisaged to be the most significantly affected by the increased energy demand. More than half of the events total emissions will come from travel alone. Although, measures have been put into place to minimise the carbon emissions associated with transport. Such as, 700 additional trains will be operating with guaranteed free transit for football fans as an incentive to use the more environmentally friendly substitutes.


Additionally, Russia is targeting BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) standards for its stadiums. The 2018 world cup will feature energy efficient LED flood-lights and heating (utilising heat recovery systems) which will reduce 40% of energy compared to similar structures. BREEAM’s advisor for three of the projects, Ksenia Agapova, has stated “The World Cup 2018 stadiums, designed to BREEAM standards, will raise the bar of sustainable design and construction in Russia.”


Despite their serious efforts, the Russian government is being criticised because of the lack of renewable energy resources used in the stadiums. Renewable energy only accounts of 3.6% of the total energy produced in Russia. Furthermore, several people are upset that FIFA’s official partner for this year’s world cup is the monopoly Gazprom, the first company to have pumped oil in the arctic field, adding more destruction in the form of climate change.


Noting the gripping glamour of football around the world, FIFA and the Russian Government should capture the opportunity to send a powerful message that sporting events of such scale can help to spread awareness of global concerns on energy efficiency, climate change and environmental management.

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