To United fans, Manchester is red. To City fans, Manchester is blue. We ran a sustainable diets challenge with 72 City and United fans to show that Manchester is Green too. We wanted to test if football could work as a hook to encourage fans to eat better for their pockets, their health and the planet.
If asked to name communities of people taking climate action, football fans would not feature on many people’s lists. However, at Hubbub we’re committed to talking to mainstream audiences about sustainability and avoiding preaching to the choir. With football being the most popular sport in the UK (and indeed the world), football fans are about as mainstream an audience you are likely to find. Even if they could out-sing a choir.
So, we ran Manchester is Green: a three-week challenge for football fans on closed Facebook groups in May 2022, which included activities such as cookalongs and matchday competitions. We carefully tailored the narrative of the challenge to our audience: almost out of date food was said to be ‘in Fergie Time’ and plant-based swaps became ‘Tactical Substitutions’ (we were quite proud of that). We created a sense of community amongst the fans, encouraging them to share their recipes and ideas, and shared inspiration from the likes of Forest Green Rovers: a fully plant-powered football club.
Throughout the challenge, we saw stories emerging of fans stepping out of their comfort zones. Gavin had “never cooked a vegetarian meal” (his own words) but after just one week was cooking mushrooms in place of steak. Caroline had reservations about joining due to fears that cooking more sustainably would be prohibitively expensive. Within a few days, she was sharing batch cooking recipes and cheering others on too. Then there was Carl who told us “I love bacon butties, steak and pies, I’m not the sort of person who would normally go for this”. He went from eating meat almost every day before the challenge, to just 1 or 2 days a week three months after it. A remarkable turnaround.
And Carl wasn’t alone. In fact, 70% of those who took part in the challenge told us they now eat less meat. 77% eat more plants, 83% waste less food, 61% feel healthier and 68% are saving money (£17.50 on average per week, which scales up to £900/year). Result. In a dual cost of living and climate crisis, sustainable actions like this that actively save individuals money are invaluable.
Highlights of the fan’s perspective: Can Football Inspire Climate Action? | Manchester is Green
9 in 10 fans who took part in Manchester is Green also told us they think football clubs should inspire their fans to do something good for the planet. In the run up to the first Manchester Derby of the season, we calculated that if all Premier League fans attending a match that weekend who normally ate meat were to swap a beef burger for a veggie burger, 5,988 Tonnes of CO2 would be saved – the equivalent of taking 2,500 cars off the road for a year.
27 million people watched a Premier League game last season. Imagine the collective impact of all football fans being inspired to eat less and better meat and dairy. Let’s not leave it to extra time.
Read the full post-match analysis: www.manchesterisgreen.co.uk