Reece Mowlem, our Content and Communications Coordinator takes a look at the environmentally friendly changes the club is making beyond the thought-provoking kits.
As someone who works in PR, who is a Reading FC season ticket holder, and who also cares deeply about the climate crisis, I practically performed a standing ovation at my desk when I first saw the implementation of the University of Reading’s climate stripes on the club’s 2022/23 kits. While this unique partnership and activation has rightfully started conversations about global warming within the football community, it is the long-term targets of the Royals that I find most impressive.
Talking on a panel at this week’s Reading Climate Festival, Reading FC’s Head of Commercial Tim Kilpatrick was open and honest in admitting that the club is still at the start of its sustainability journey. But it is on the journey, and that’s what’s most important.
From installing solar panels at the stadium and training ground to introducing a climate score on the matchday food menus, the Berkshire outfit is exploring every possible avenue to help move towards an environmentally friendly future. Of course, there are some things that can’t be helped, such as maintaining an elite grass playing surface that requires plenty of water. It’s especially hard when that pitch is also the only one in the country that hosts men’s, women’s, and academy action on a weekly basis. However, the club is making plenty of positive changes and this kind of stuff takes time and patience.
Patience, and time for that matter, is not something which is often afforded in football. Like in any sport, the focus is on short-term success. Unfortunately, the ‘we need to see results now’ mindset cannot be implemented when embarking on a club-wide sustainability transition. This makes it a daunting task to take on, as ultimately on-field play dictates the club’s financial capabilities, to which any football fan can attest, is highly unpredictable.
In light of this, Tim Kilpatrick and Reading FC have been smart, partnering with the University of Reading and seeking advice from the institution’s extensive climate change expertise – the University of Reading has the highest concentration of climate scientists in the UK. Through the support of the Professor Ed Hawkins and his team, Reading has been able to target both short-term and long-term goals to help make the club more sustainable. This ethos has also been adopted by the team’s main sponsor, Select Car Leasing. As it expands its own electric car offerings, the company is helping to install EV charging points at the stadium which bears its name.
And obviously, there are the kits, adorned with the striking and thought-provoking climate stripes that visually represent Berkshire’s rising temperatures over the past 150 years. When released, the kits made both national and international news, sparking conversation about the part sport can play in battling climate change. More locally, the kits initially produced a mixed reaction from the Royals faithful. However, they have since been embraced by the fans, and climate stripes can now be found scattered amongst the crowd on match days.
If there was any doubt about the legitimacy of Reading’s push towards sustainability, the club’s #ShowYourStripes kit activation in partnership with the University of Reading was recently nominated for the Sustainability in Sport Award at the Sports Business Awards 2022.
Reading FC is not Forest Green Rovers, nor is it trying to be, but the club is making strides towards operating in a more sustainable fashion. And through its partnership with the University of Reading, the team is encouraging its fans to follow suit.
Sticking climate stripes on the kit were talking the talk, so it’s good to see Reading FC has already made a strong start to the walk.