The Economist & Sports Positive – October conferences

It’s been a busy start to October post-Summer with The Economist and Sport positive conferences last week. A combo of talking and listening to see opportunities for progress, working to understand blockers and keeping up to date with the latest innovations and news. 

Joining The Economist in the morning to ask about the effects of the Net Zero rollback by Rishi Sunak answered by UNEP and the Carbon Capture Association, and Sport Positive in the afternoon and Wednesday to see many familiar faces IRL. More joined the conversation this year, 500 in attendance at The Oval cricket ground, attracting an international crowd with a mix of athletes, startups, solutions, broadcasters, activist groups and those with ESG/Sustainability roles in sport.

FGA listened to a panel on travel from F1, UEFA and Philadelphia Eagles pictured here. 

And took some thoughts and main points away from the travel-based discussions and polls at Sport Positive: 

75 % of the audience said sports can’t grow and be sustainable (ideal situation for C02 levels). Growth is happening and pushed for (current situation). The work to do: negotiation and work on solutions that lie in between the two through collaboration and innovation. 

85% said sports should not be sponsored by fossil fuel companies (ideal for environment, FGA question: fossil fuel companies are clearly under this bracket but there is a grey area, which other companies are not allowed? Most companies use fossil fuels to travel, make their product, be online. How do you manage this?) 

Some topics discussed on travel: 

The FA/ football clubs/ Sport Positive – discussed sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as well as travel. An ongoing and unsolved topic due to costs of carbon reduction in travel but SAF on the agenda for the first year – more work to do here and post-conferences follows up were requested

Michele Uva – UEFA – EURO 2024 will be the most sustainable tournament but there are 4 strategic pillars for UEFA to follow and environment is just one, a pragmatic approach

Fiona Morgan – Sail GP – was at The Economist in the morning too and Sport Positive in the afternoon mentioning collaborate with your sponsor, don’t cut them out – Sail GP sponsored by Emirates 

Fan travel – Wednesday morning Sport Positive workshop – whose responsibility is it? Club, city or fan? This was discussed by all sports. More work to do here too but that are clear experts and ideas starting to develop. 

More collaboration is being discussed, some question if a blunter approach is needed, some say flip the script, some say be more creative. We say ‘yes’ to ALL of the above. But you do need to work out the budget.

One grey area for us or an area with room to develop, was that some people actively push against some topics especially around travel, solutions, SAF and sponsorship, but many are still willing to promote and partake in long haul travel to attend conferences and sports events in their respective sustainability roles. Is this a contradiction? What is the next step here? Ideals or pragmatism? How do we push along in an area that is so divided? Profit and performance over environment, will always be the debate in the corporate and sporting world.

With this said FGA are working on collaboration and aspiring to disentangle some of the topics across travel in sport. In one of our research-based collaborations with Sokito, who work with 16 player investor including Will Troost-Ekong ; we are looking into the topic of the travel from the football transfer window. In this data-driven project we have worked to create a methodology, data sets and an approach to measuring the carbon from the window in a project we have called ‘transfer green’. We invite stakeholders with an interest and role in football and environment to contribute thoughts on this dilemma. Is travel and environmental championing possible? Are there already solutions, ways and ideas? Have your say. We invite you to sign up to join this presentation and information session this November. 

It was enjoyable to sit down with Frank from Fossil Free Football and Freddy Daley from ‘Cool down’ Sport who may have a different approach to us at FGA but we respectively talked through our approaches and saw each other’s ways, points of views and roles within sport and sustainability. Different opinions make change.

Thanks to both conferences for delivering thought provoking content and opportunities to move the work forward.

And to end the week, Sarah Wilkin with FGA Sports was invited to be one of the 12 entrepreneurs who will be supported by Women in football and Xero to grow FGA Sport’s efforts and business. This is a great opportunity for us to make an even bigger impact, starting on 23rd October. 

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