Forest Green Rovers FC are doing impressively in Football League Two, but their achievements off the pitch are leaving an even bigger mark. The club’s environmental objectives have been attracting attention around the world and it has already set some amazing accomplishments. LWOF’s Hristo Andreev talks to Forest Green Rovers Ambassador Helen Taylor about the team and its green transformation and goals.
The FGR Interview: World’s Greenest Football Club
1) You already have a great, environmentally friendly stadium by the name of The New Lawn, so why are you planning to build Eco Park and what will be so special about it?
“We feel really at home at The New Lawn but it isn’t really suitable for us as we grow as a club. The stadium is in the middle of the countryside, so transport can be an issue and there’s very limited space for car parking around the ground.
“We’re an ambitious club and are planning to be in The Championship in the next five years, so need a stadium to match those plans and that’s exactly what we’ll have at Eco Park. The new stadium will be the greenest in the world and will be entirely made of wood, which is a very sustainable building material.”
2) You’re now continuing your unbeaten run, what are your goals and aims for the season?
“Our first season in the Football League last season was a tough one and we flirted with relegation for much of the season, so this year we’re looking to stabilise in the division and potentially push towards the playoffs.”
3) You’ve become 100% vegan as a club; what does the players’ diet feature and how does it affect them on and off the pitch?
“The players have a healthy, plant-based diet, which mainly consists of pasta, rice, vegetables and pulses. They all really enjoy the food, in fact we’ve had four players become vegan when playing for the club as there are big performance and recovery benefits. Lots of the world’s top athletes, including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Aguero, follow a vegan diet for the same reason.”
4) Is there something unusual about your training routine and are there any different, unique training methods?
“We like to play football in the right way – keeping the ball on the deck and playing a passing game, so we train a lot with the ball to develop that style. We also take quite a technical approach and use GPS and heart-rate monitors to analyse our players in every match and training session to try and optimise their performance.”
5) How and why did you become the world’s first certified carbon neutral club?
“We became carbon neutral this summer after signing up to the UN’s Carbon Neutral Now campaign. We’re the world’s greenest football club and present a vision for how we can all live a more sustainable life with regards to energy, transport and food, so becoming carbon neutral was an obvious next step for us.”
6) Tell us a bit more about your special lawn mower.
“The ETMow, or MowBot as we call it, is a solar-powered robot lawnmower. It’s fitted with GPS so it knows the dimensions of the pitch and can cut it for two hours without needing our groundsman. After two hours it will plug into a charger, which is powered by solar panels on the roof of the stadium, give the battery a boost and then go back out again to carry on cutting. If it ever gets a fault then it will text our groundsman to let him know!”
7) As well as the players being vegan, you also offer vegan food to fans. Is there a big interest?
“Our food sales have quadrupled since our chairman, Dale, became involved with the club, so the feedback has been really positive. We introduced the change over time – initially removing red meat, before removing white meat, then fish and finally milk to become vegan a couple of years ago. The food is really popular – we even have fans coming to games especially to try it.
“We’re now also branching into school food as well with our new Little Green Devils range, which is a selection of healthy vegan products that will be sold in schools up and down the country.”
8) Have you been contacted by other clubs who want to follow your green approach?
“Yes, we’ve had quite a few clubs reach out to us to discuss our work and a couple have put on special vegan menus when we play against them away from home. But it’s not just football clubs that are interested in our work – the UN, Wembley, Sky Sports and many other organisations have been in touch to find out more about our work.”
9) There was big public outburst when you revealed your new kits with the three stars, two of them being greyed-out until promotion. What is your response?
“We’re an ambitious club, so the stars are a statement of intent. They definitely made for a fun few days in the office!”
10) How do supporters from before the big green transformation react to the changes now?
“Our fans are really enjoying the journey that we’re on as a club – both on the pitch and off it.”
11) Another record waiting to be broken is that Forest Green can be the smallest club to ever be promoted to English Football League One, located in a village with about 5000 inhabitants. So tell us more about this village.
“Nailsworth is a beautiful little place with some great shops and cafes. It’s not the sort of place that you would expect a Football League club to call home.”