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Millwall are one club that has a "no fly" policy © Millwall FC

Sustainable Travel Charter: Clubs urged to kick domestic flight habit

A new Sustainable Travel Charter has been launched to help football clubs kick their addiction to domestic flights and show leadership amid the escalating climate crisis.

The charter, created by a working group made up of charity Pledgeball, the Football Supporters’ Association and a number of clubs, will help football navigate the issue of transport and reduce their dependence on domestic flights – the most environmentally damaging form of travel going.

Football clubs such as Millwall (who have a “no fly” policy), Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Forest Green Rovers, Mansfield Town and Swindon Town have already joined forces behind the charter, and discussions are ongoing with several other clubs.

The controversy around football’s addiction to domestic flights reached its zenith this year as shocking research from the BBC revealed just how commonplace team flights are. Looking at a two month sample the BBC found that Premier League teams made 81 individual domestic flights to 100 games taking place in that period.

The shortest of these domestic team flights was 27 minutes, the BBC found, with an average journey time being just 42 minutes. The research also discovered a large number of “positioning flights” were taking place around games – flights where the mostly empty planes are getting into position to pick up private charter passengers.

Outside of the Premier League, Wrexham took 16 domestic flights in the 20220-23 National League season, a league in which no other team flies.

Domestic flights are the worst per-passenger form of travel for carbon emissions with substantial CO2 output. It also leads to the absurdity of plush, modern, empty coaches driving around the country to pick up teams from airpots to take them to the stadium.

Campaigners say the Sustainable Travel Charter offers a genuine alternative for clubs who must “lead by example” on the climate crisis.

Katie Cross, head of Pledgeball, said: “Football clubs’ reliance on short-haul flights is a thorn in the side of their wider sustainability strategies. This charter seeks to address the elephant in the room and help clubs incorporate more sustainable travel practices into their operations and lead by example in showing fans and the public that climate action means walking the talk.”

It is widely thought that there is a competitive advantage to flying to games although there has been little research done around the issue and the time savings on many short haul flights are often minimal.

Millwall’s chief financial officer and chair of Lion Living, Mark Fairbrother said: “Sustainability is a huge focal point of Millwall football club’s operations, with strong progress already being made to reduce waste, as well as other eco-friendly initiatives.

“We are proud to work alongside Pledgeball and the Football Supporters’ Association to create this charter, which can help football take greater steps to become a more sustainable sport.”

The Sustainable Travel Charter will support clubs in their decision-making around player travel to and from games. The charter takes into account issues that clubs need to consider in their decision-making, such as player security, health and wellbeing, travel time and next fixture, guiding clubs so that they can at least reduce the number of flights.

What does the FSA think?

Ashley Brown, head of governance and supporter engagement at the FSA said: “We’d encourage all clubs to sign up to Pledgeball’s Sustainable Travel charter which could kickstart real change in football.

“Our country isn’t huge and, in most cases, clubs can reasonably make journeys by road or rail – short haul flights should be a last resort.

“Football can also help by avoiding putting games on at times when public transport options aren’t available for the majority of fans.

“At a local level we’d also encourage clubs to look at ways they can join forces with public transport providers to offer deals to supporters.”

 

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