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How fans can be the voice that football needs to tackle climate change

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There are many reasons to be critical of FIFA World Cup being hosted by Qatar. From the thousands of deaths of migrant workers who built the infrastructure, to the exclusion of LGBTQ+ people, through the corrupt circumstances of the winning bid.

Yet there is one issue that, whilst mentioned, has not been given the coverage that you’d expect of something that threatens the existence of World Cups as we know them: climate change.

The fact that the FIFA World Cup is being hosted by a petrostate is symbolic of football’s contradictory relationship with climate change. The football industry makes certain statements and pronouncements, but this is rarely backed up with what could be pioneering and hugely impactful action.

FIFA, like many governing bodies and clubs, has showcased how it is taking environmental sustainability seriously. It even proudly declared that: “FIFA measured, took steps to reduce and then offset the unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions related to the FIFA World Cu tournaments of Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018, and will do so for the upcoming edition in Qatar”.

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The 2014 men’s World Cup was held in Brazil, a country with some of the worst deforestation rates in the world. At the time of the tournament Brazil was presided over by Dilma Rousseff who used to be a director of Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned petroleum industry. Rousseff became embroiled in a corruption scandal involving Petrobras which eventually led to her downfall.

The subsequent tournament was held by Russia in 2018, who not only had invaded Ukraine in 2014, they have subsequently escalated their war with Ukraine. Russia is also an energy superpower and therefore has a major impact on climate emissions. Qatar are also one of the world’s leading petrostates and income from fossil fuels is funding the current tournament.

Holding a football tournament in a desert is not easy. In order to maintain the high quality turf required for the World Cup, Qatar flew 140 tonnes of grass seed from the US on climate-controlled aircraft and uses 10,000 litres of desalinated water daily in winter and 50,000 litres in the summer on the pitches. All of which have an environmental impact.

FIFA controversially claims the Qatar tournament will be carbon-neutral and have sustainable stadiums, low emission transport and sustainable waste management. Whilst some of the initiatives are worthy and help raise awareness, it all amounts to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic

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For this reason, and many more, football is currently a problematic ally in the fight against climate change.

First Chelsea, then Manchester City, and now Newcastle United are owned by petrostates or individuals who made their money from fossil fuels, a fact which is not going to accelerate any moves to genuinely addressing environmental sustainability. Alongside this there is the encouragement of continuous consumption, particularly around football kits. Meanwhile match-going fans in England emit over 125,000 tonnes of carbon just through transportation. As with the World Cup, it symbolises the wider political economy outside football. Many stadiums are built outside of densely populated areas and away from good public transport, if this even exists in these towns and cities.

Football needs to take action. If the world continues to heat up as it is currently doing, a quarter of football grounds in the UK will be regularly flooded. We are already seeing the impact of climate change on other sports, from insufficient snow to wildfires. Some football clubs are making small changes, like Reading FC incorporating the increasing temperatures into their shirt design. But with the continuing push for not only a new kit each year, but a new away and third kit as well, millions of football kits end up in landfill.

This synonymises football’s start to addressing what will be a crisis for football: mostly paying lip-service to sustainability when the unique position that they hold makes them potential game-changers in a much wider sense.

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Addressing climate change requires significant structural change as well as individual change: fans can drive both of these, mobilising to force clubs, governing bodies and the government to enact the required change and instigating a social shift.

Tackling climate change requires collective action, and for this, fans are the best in the business. Whether it is campaigning to remove a manager, stopping the Super League or collecting for foodbanks, fans regularly mobilise to bring about change – whether it’s in football, or outside of it. Collective action requires lots of people doing an activity on a regular basis. Fans do this every weekend. Adjusting our matchday rituals to include a greener form of transport or pledging to wash clothes at 30 degrees can showcase our collective action for the world.

Football fans are starting to campaign and raise awareness to try and change the industry. Campaigns such as Pledgeball, Kick Fossil Fuels Out of Football, Zukunft Profifußball, and club specific campaigns like Huddersfield Town Supporters Association’s Sustainable Stadiums are rallying fans and trying to push the clubs and governing bodies to introduce the structural changes required.

In February, the first Green Football Weekend will be an opportunity to bring together the fans, players and clubs to start acting collectively for the planet.

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The Qatar World Cup symbolises how the football industry pays lip service to sustainability while continuing with the structural practices that have got us into the climate crisis. Fans, players and all those involved in the game need to push for actual, ambitious change to ensure that we can to continue to enjoy the beautiful game as we know it.

Article by Dr Mark Doidge, University of Brighton

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EPL

RB Leipzig End Liverpool’s Hopes of Early Naby Keita Move

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Naby Keita will not be allowed to ditch Leipzig for ​Liverpool in January, regardless of progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League, according to Leipziger Volkszeitung.

It was announced during the summer that Liverpool had met Keita’s release clause and the Guinean midfielder would move to Anfield at the end of the 2017/18 season. 

However, recent speculation suggested that die Roten Bullen could be persuaded into letting Keita leave the club during the winter transfer window.

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“Even if we should not reach the knockout stages of Champions League, it would make no sense to allow Naby to join Liverpool earlier,” said RB Leipzig sporting director, Ralf Rangnick.

“We want to qualify for Europe again, and we need Naby for that.”

Leipzig have won just one Champions League game this season, with defeats to FC Porto and Besiktas making progression to the knockout stages a difficult task this year.

Following their impressive maiden season in the Bundesliga, in which RB Leipzig finished ahead of Borussia Dortmund, the Red Bulls will be desperate to make sure their Champions League status continues next season.

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The 22-year-old has struggled to replicate the incredible form he showed last year since the announcement of his move next summer. 

Questions about Keita’s disciplinary record have also arisen this season, the midfielder seeing three red cards for club and country in less than one month.



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Man Utd’s fixture list up to Carabao Cup final including Barcelona & Leeds clashes

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Manchester United reached their first final under Erik ten Hag by securing safe passage through the Carabao Cup semi finals at the expense of Nottingham Forest.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a brilliant run of form after their infamous defeats to Brighton and Brentford to start the season. They’re firmly in the Champions League qualification mix and remain alive in the FA Cup and Europa League.

However, their commitments in cup competitions means Ten Hag faces a tough February as he tries to balance the playing time of a squad that has recently been struck by injuries to key players.

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Here’s United’s truncated schedule leading up to the Carabao Cup final, including some juicy derbies and European fixtures.

Michael Olise, David De Gea

Olise denied Man Utd with a late free kick last time out / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Fresh from sealing their spot in the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle, United are back into Premier League matters when they host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday 4 February in a 15:00 GMT kick off.

The two sides duked it out earlier a few weeks ago in their first meeting of the season as a late Michael Olise free-kick earned Palace a point after Bruno Fernandes’ strike just before half time.

Manchester United and Leeds are fierce rivals and the tension between the two teams has risen again following Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League.

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The Red Devils have scored 15 goals in the four meetings in that time, only failing to win once when they were held to a goalless draw in April 2021. The fixture was originally postponed following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September and will take place on Wednesday 8 February at 20:00 GMT.

Fred, Anthony Elanga

Fred and Elanga struck at Elland Road last season / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

That fixture rearrangement means the two Uniteds will face each other twice in four days.

In this fixture last season, two headless chickens went at it as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds were downed 4-2 by Ralf Rangnick’s Man Utd. Goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors 2-0 up before two goals in two minutes from Rodrigo and Raphinha squared things up.

Substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga gave the Red Devils all three points. However, they would win only three more league games before the end of the season.

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The stakes are really upped in mid February when Man Utd travel to Barcelona to face the Catalan giants at Camp Nou in the Europa League knockout play-off round.

It’s Barça who hold the edge in recent meetings, having won the past four games between the two sides.

Once they return home from the trip to Catalonia, United have a home game against Leicester to contend with.

The Foxes have endured some turbulent form this season but have mostly been a mess at the back, though the sides were only separated by Jadon Sancho’s strike they met back in September.

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Lionel Messi

A lot has changed since United and Barça last met in 2019 / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

The return leg of the Europa League knockout play-off round will determine who between United and Barça continue in the continent’s secondary club competition.

United’s last win over Barça came at Old Trafford in 2008 when Paul Scholes scored the only goal of a Champions League semi final tie to send his side to final in Moscow.

Two of the most improved sides this season meet in the Carabao Cup final in late February when Newcastle face Man Utd.

Both sides are eyeing up Champions League qualification and each sit in the top four currently and this meeting could be an opportunity to land a significant psychological blow.

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Player ratings as Catalans pull clear in La Liga

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Barcelona survived a late scare against Real Betis to secure a 2-1 win and at least temporarily extend their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points before Real Madrid play on Thursday night.

Barça went into the game at Benito Villamarin knowing they had the opportunity to start pulling away from their fierce rivals in Madrid. But it took until well into the second half for the breakthrough to come, with Raphinha and later Robert Lewandowski eventually netting.

An own goal from Joules Kounde in the closing stages threatened to make it a difficult end for Xavi’s team, but they managed to see it out. Betis midfielder William Carvalho, who had already been substituted with an hour played, was then sent off for dissent at the game’s conclusion.

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Betis were actually the first to threaten in the contest, seeing Luiz Henrique only narrowly miss an early chance when his shot was deflected just wide by Alejandro Balde.

Pedri had a chance for Barça at the other end not long after, but his touch in the penalty area wasn’t sharp enough and Rui Silva in the home goal got down to pick the ball off his toe.

Silva again denied Pedri after the restart, but Raphinha broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. The Brazilian, whose debut season hasn’t been a rip-roaring success, tapped in from close range after excellent work from Balde down the left flank.

Lewandowski’s ultimately decisive second was from only a little further out, pounced on by the Pole after Ronald Araujo flicked on Raphinha’s cross.

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That cushion was enough for Barça and ensured that Kounde’s own goal mattered little in the end.

GK: Silva (6); RB: Ruibal (7), CB: Pezzella (6), CB: Felipe (6), LB: Abner (6); CM: Rodriguez (6), CM: Carvalho (5); RM: Henrique (7), AM: Fekir (6), LM: Canales (6); ST: Iglesias (6)

Subs: Guardado (6), Juanmi (6), Rodri (6), Jose (5), Sabaly (6)

GK: Ter Stegen (6); RB: Kounde (6), CB: Araujo (7), CB: Chistensen (7), LB: Balde (8); CM: De Jong (7), CM: Busquets (8), CM: Pedri (7); RW: Raphinha (8), ST: Lewandowski (7), LW: Gavi (7)

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Subs: Fati (5), Torres (N/A), Kessie (N/A)

Player of the match – Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)



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