Forest Green Rovers, the green giant of football

At Forest Green Rovers (English D4), the world has been green for ten years and the arrival of green tycoon Dale Vince. Recognized by the UN for its carbon neutrality, the club has a completely wooden stadium in the pipeline and has just narrowly missed the climb to League One. Immersion in the heart of a personal ambition which turns every day a little more into a great collective adventure.

It is typically the kind of place where Nicolas Hulot would have the impression of entering paradise. Exit the legendary beef pies and hamburgers, in Forest Green, we play it more detox. A few clicks on the League Two club’s website are enough to capture the atmosphere. “It might seem odd to fans used to hamburgers and pies at halftime, but as a vegan club we provide our players, staff and fans with healthier food that tastes great and is better for the family. planet. ” Result, in New Lawn, the enclosure of the men in green planted in Gloucestershire (with 170 terminals in the West of London), one delights in plant-based steaks, spicy pâtés, vegan fajitas. And we pride ourselves “Like Sergio Agüero, Lionel Messi and Lewis Hamilton” to have players who “Benefit from improved performance thanks to this regime” . Players remain free to eat their meals away from the club, but local butchers still wonder what went through the mind of Dale Vince, the man in charge of the club for a decade. The welcome financial rescue man at a time when Forest Green flirted with Britain’s Sixth Division.

A jersey made from coffee and bottles

Since then, the millionaire of a century-old entity (the club was created in 1889), at the helm of the green electricity giant across the Channel, Ecotricity, has totally revolutionized the management of a club. The 100% green energy powers the installations – notably via solar panels on the roof of the stadium – the lawn is treated without pesticides or weedkillers, the lawn mower is electric and solar-powered, the rainwater which lands on the stadium is used to irrigate lawns and electric cars to get around have stored the flashy sedans in the garage. More than a simple green vision, it is a lifestyle pushed to the making of swimsuits, since this year, based on coffee grounds and recyclable plastic bottles. “It is time for the world of football to wake up and perceive the aroma of coffee on the future of the planet” , Dale Vince smiles. Which now pays for interviews on the site of the United Nations which awarded it its carbon neutrality certification in July 2018. A label of the greenest club in the world which befits Forest. But the road was not without a hitch, and Dale Vince convinced, step by step, each of the mysteries of a club that functioned “classically”. “I ran up against big conflicts in relation to my way of living and the perspectives that I wanted to trigger, swears the boss, in an interview with the UN. The first thing was red meat. We served beef lasagna to our players. I was horrified. ”

The dream of a wooden stadium

Dale Vince considers that even “The richest clubs can change their habits” , is based on certain examples (LOSC in France, Betis Seville in Spain) having followed suit in the quest for zero carbon and insists on changing the behavior of Forest supporters (an average of 2,700 spectators before the pandemic) . “Many of them have told me that they have become vegetarians or vegans, taking their families, electric cars and solar panels with them as well. Football fans are like ordinary people, they are ordinary people who are passionate about football. If you show them where the problems are and what can be done about it, and show them by doing it yourself, it seeps into their own lives. ” CQFD. Even soccer-loving Americans have taken to it. In Chicago, Illinois, a fan club of a hundred people is now closely monitoring the results of a training that came close to a play-off final at the end of May at the end of May ( third division). Arsenal side Héctor Bellerín, vegetarian, was also convinced and put on his cap as a Forest shareholder since the fall of 2020. “Forest Green Rovers is a glaring example of how a football club can be run in our time” , slips the Spaniard. Will we ever see it evolve in the 100% wooden stadium which should be inaugurated in 2024? Surely, the ultimate project of Dale Vince, the Eco Park having obtained, despite the vagaries of the pandemic, the approval of the local authorities to see the light of day. Five hundred new trees, two kilometers of shrubs and hedges, a totally wooden structure with 5,000 places, the Greens of Forest see far. So who are the strongest?

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By Florent Caffery

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