Written by Sean Blake
The sports industry is a worldwide, multi-billion dollar machine that breeds success. But it can also absorb the life of others, leaving them forgotten to the world. There is a long list of reasons as to why major conglomerates seek their branding on sports merchandise, ultimately seeking more brand exposure and higher revenue. In this blog I will be delving a little further into a how wide the impacts really are, focusing on the examples of stadium construction and football production and what gaps need to be addressed to reduce the impact of the sports industry on the environment
The below flowchart shows some of the effects behind a number of parts involved in the production of a sports stadium:
Although a simplification, from the diagram we see a brief extension of initial perceptions of effects of each component. With the development of newer construction methods being implemented on houses for a more eco friendly approach we can see a reduction on environmental costs. There is a limit to these newer methods of concrete production and the scale at which they can be used. With the use of ‘normal’ methods, although their cost to the environment continues to exist, at least they are tried and tested materials and methods.
As building regulations become more stringent, is it about time Parliament seriously considered a reform of the process? We need to see the country (and indeed other countries) move towards more sustainable forms of building methods and recycling of structures. Many sports grounds relocate as opposed to reuse their foundations or location. In the UK you only have to look as far as Arsenal FC to see this. More recently, Brentford FC are moving to a new location, building a new stadium from scratch, and leaving the old one behind. By introducing new approaches or incentives to encourage reuse we reduce the need for requiring new product production that inevitably impacts on the environment. Instead we need to breed a culture that encompasses reuse and improvement from already fostered possessions.
Looking at the simple example of football boots we can see again the vast effect their production has on multiple streams
Again, the diagram is simplified. For example, it doesn’t consider the impact on labour or the transportation issues that producing these products causes but one is able to get an idea of each material resource that forms the final product. From this it is visible the spread of resources that are pulled in to make this one product.
Once these products are inevitably finished with use, their biodegradable value is low and the prevalence of those using shoe bins to recycle the materials is also low. The general recycling figures show that textile recycling makes up 25% of total recycling numbers in total in the UK, 50% of household textiles thrown away are recyclable. These figures show the under use of textile recycling in the UK. Education can aid this. Sport provides role models, and by introducing a sports wear recycling brand to the market it would reduce the effects of production on the environment.
Not only is the impact vast on the environmental resources pulled upon to construct a boot, but there is another point to be made. Participation costs money.
The cost to families to afford these products, where children are involved in sport is grave. In the case of football boots, the cost can often be upwards of £100 per pair. That’s not a small price to pay where there is more than one parent or child involved. Encouraging participation in sport post London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 is very valuable for reduction of health related diseases. It would be of use to compare after suitable time duration the prevalence of coronary heart disease post 2012 games with the whole ethos of encouraging participation in sport, which in turn could reduce overall risk of this disease. But physical activity requires special clothing of some description, and better performance does result from correct attire.
No doubt the sports industry does improve society’s health.. However, the sports industry has a far-reaching effect, in both the cost and the revenues through use of materials for both kit and venues. A gap needs to be bridged to recycle stadiums and find a way of sustaining them for longer. With regards to kit, the real cost is often masked by consumer demand driving up prices. If the sports sector wants to continue increasing the participation of younger generations, something needs to be done to make it more accessible for the consumer. Surely the multinational brands could offer an affordable range or offer a donation service to those that are identified to benefit most from it.