Spirit of Football (SoF) has always been attentive to the signs of the time. This time, SoF got inspired by the bold climate strikes across the globe in its decision to make climate action the core theme of the upcoming Ball Journey – One Ball, One World. Not only is this journey about asking “what can the institution ‘football’ contribute to the fight against climate change?“, but it stretches beyond and aims to encourage everyone to commit to stabilizing the health of our planet. For this reason, SoF has joined forces with Katie Cross’ “Pledgeball”, in creating a unique platform that not only educates, but also unites football lovers around the common goal of making their football clubs climate-friendly. Pledgeball’s platform encourages people to join “lifestyle pledging competitions” between the fans of different football clubs over whose team can win in saving the most CO2 emissions. Starting in the summer of 2022, “The Ball” will be travelling from the home of football in London first to the 2022’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar and continuing on in 2023 to the Women’s World Cup in Australia. This time, while doing so, it will inspire and motivate football fans along the way to make lifestyle pledges to contribute to climate action.
When Andrew Aris, founder and director of SoF and former Brandt School student, first explained the idea of One Ball, One World to students of the Brandt School’s Master of Public Policy program, they were immediately touched by Andrew’s enthusiasm and motivated to help the NGO prepare for this amazing journey. During this winter semester (2020 to 2021) the project group lead by Prof. Heike Grimm and Juliane Corredor J. developed a variety of outputs to help SoF. The group’s tasks ranged from designing a policy advocacy strategy, mapping potential partners and donors along the way, developing a social media strategy, to creating educational material like infographics and making a video trailer to advertise the new journey. The students’ motivation and commitment were reflected in their excellent results. The project group was joined by Jennifer Amann (a masters student at the University of Brighton) and Katie Cross (Founder of Pledgeball) who elaborated on the idea of Pledgeball and on how making a personal contribution to climate change can sometimes differ around the world. Moreover, David Wooster, director of Worldmark Films, instructed the students on how to best convey the journey’s message through their work. On Feb. 16th 2021, an incredible semester of the Brandt School students working closely with SoF reached its end. The students leave SoF with a ready-to-implement social media strategy, infographics about the challenges in offsetting CO2 in football stadiums, the impacts of climate change on football, or best practices of successful examples of green football clubs like Forest Green Rovers. Moreover, students successfully delivered a teaser about the journey, an advocacy strategy and a list of partners in academia and the world of sports.
While the semester terminates the One Ball, One World project has just been kicked-off. With the students’ input, SoF will now start to strategically reach out to university partners along the journey’s route. Collaboration with students combined with educational workshops around the subject of climate change, and even offering them the chance to become ball carriers will be this journey’s key. This project group’s main conclusion was that there is already a lot of positive climate action already being undertaken in the world of sports by prominent athletes. Indeed FIFA, under the United Nations Sports For Climate Action Framework, has committed to making the 2022 FIFA World Cup the ‘greenest ever’. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement for FIFA and the entire world of football and for really becoming leaders and role models for consequent climate change mitigation. Given the huge potential of uniting and influencing fans around the world, making football climate neutral would indeed have a tremendous impact on the success of the Paris Agreement. The next Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, COP 26, will be held in Glasgow this November 2021. Spirit of Football aims to launch One Ball, One World during this important COP.
Until then, SoF will continue warming up for the journey, building upon the Brandt School project group’s input. In summary, the project group was a great experience that was mutually beneficial. Not only did the students have a lot of fun working closely with SoF, but many were even so motivated that they have decided to continue doing an internship at the association. Spirit of Football is always welcoming alumni or lecturers who like to get involved with the NGO to get in touch.