Manchester City FC has big sustainability goals. The club is pushing to be net zero in carbon emissions by 2030.
And the club is well on the way to achieving this, having reduced CO2 emissions by 31.8% from 2021 to 2022.
Over the same period, Manchester City also saw a reduction in gas consumption of 26%, while waste handling dropped by 16%.
Pete Bradshaw, Director of Sustainability – City Football Group, told PS&AM:
The big headline goal is that we aim to be credibly net zero by 2030 and that is outlined in our strategy document which is called ‘Game Plan’ - a sustainability and environmental impact agenda with a very clear and outlined road to net zero.
It's where we're trying to focus our work so that we make sure that we have the most positive impact possible in in our city and community and neighbourhood.
He said the club is looking at a number of areas of focus for sustainable operations, including energy and water, waste and materials, travel and transport, biodiversity and ecology.
Bradshaw, who was the first sustainability director to be appointed by a club in the Premier League, added:
And then there's the measurement and reporting of our actions. That's really where we’re focused. For the last seven or eight years we have only bought certified renewable electricity under a power purchase agreement, and that continues to be the case. We've invested significantly in much more efficient energy plants and distribution equipment, switchgear and controls and different types of lighting.
We’ve moved the whole of the stadium into all LED lighting, for example. That saved about one million Kilowatt hours of electricity. We are also building in all the efficient behaviours around that as well.
It's one thing putting the equipment in but what we need to do is to make sure that people understand why we've done it and how then to look after it. That's a process carried through into our offices and to the Academy, among other places. That's been a big focus for us because they’re the big things that you can have a go at.
Management of water consumption and water harvesting is another prime focus for the club.
We reuse water over and over. We have a bore hole that we use as back-up. That was something that was originally focused on the City Football Academy, but in the last 14 months we've actually built a new harvesting system underneath the pitch at the stadium, so that becomes water efficient. In a rainy city people sometimes wonder why we do that, but it's really about respecting our natural resources.
We capture water off all of our pitches and all the land that we own, so that's car parks and roadways, the roofs of the buildings - all captured into a mix of attenuation tanks and rainwater harvesting systems that are against every building.
That water is stored in a 12 million litre harvesting reservoir that gets cleaned and reused. Then the same thing happens. That water will percolate back though again and be cleaned and reused, cleaned and reused. Some of it will always evaporate though.”
Bradshaw said the harvested water is almost entirely used for irrigation, but some of it is used in grey water services.
It's used for a mix of things like the essential wash downs of tractors and machinery, and in some of the buildings for toilet flushing as well. It’s used wherever grey water can be used. We do have a drinking water borehole that we use in some of our buildings, but not all.
Bradshaw said that last year the club looked at both the general lighting levels in the campus facilities to make sure that everything was safe. He added:
Where some of those lux levels were too high, we looked to reduce them to a more sensible level, so that again saves energy.
We also looked at temperatures and we've dropped our heating temperatures by 2.5 degrees in the last 12 months. Similarly, we have taken the same approach to cooling, and we have reduced the impact of our air conditioning by about 1.5 degrees. The reality is that nobody has really noticed. If you do these things sensibly and explain to people why you’re doing them, they actually buy into it fairly well.
Something that we've all been really proud of is that air conditioning in buildings typically leaks, so you get all sorts of emissions from those systems. The one thing we've never actually had is leaks. We’ve really maintained it very well to prevent that and it provides incredible efficiency in buildings. Leakage management and making sure those things don't happen has been a real priority.
We've also triple insulated all our beer cellars so we can reduce the cooling levels in them. It's a much more sustainable solution than pumping cold air into places that might only be used every fortnight.
Match day waste
Manchester City has also been working hard to reduce its match day waste. Bradshaw added:
The approach we take is that the best thing we can do is simply reduce waste at source to start with. That's the number one thing. ‘Reduce’ is so important and to understand why we need as much of a certain product or types of packaging. Not creating the waste in the first place is the number one thing to do. We’re also taking all our contractors, suppliers and our fans on that journey with us. By enlarge we have managed to do that reasonably well and year-on-year we've been reducing waste between about 10-17% every single year.
Our aim working with our facilities management colleagues is to become a zero waste organisation as soon as possible. We’ve not put a date on that, but we will just achieve it as soon as we can. To that end we've eradicated all sorts of waste through much smarter ordering of food, so our kitchen staff are dealing with less waste in production. Smarter ordering has also been implemented, so there’s less waste out of our restaurants and concessions.
He said the packaging coming into retail and into the business generally is also being targeted.
We’re actively going out asking our suppliers and partners to reduce the amount of packaging that comes into us. Since we actually moved to the Etihad 20 years ago, we've not sent anything to landfill in all of that time. Landfill has been banned for a long time.
We've reused and recycled wherever possible and we've worked with the Greater Manchester Waste Authority to make sure that that's all traceable and we know what goes where.
The club has also created a full circle, on site process for food, grass cuttings and all compostable waste, with the aim of being innovative, efficient and environmentally beneficial.
We made some really big decisions some time ago in that we wanted to try composting. Food composting is relatively easy and we were able to do that, but actually the biggest amount of waste that we ever have to handle is grass cuttings.
We've got 18 pitches to manage and a lot of landscape that all needs looking after and cutting year-round. There wasn't anything that we could find on the market that was a grass composter and a food composter, so we worked with an organisation that designed one for us and it works really well.
Now our grass cuttings, our food waste, all our paper waste - we only use compostable cups for example - compostable sandwich packaging, burger packaging and everything can all be composted - we don't have to worry about contamination. We've trialled it right across our landscape and it works brilliantly well.
It means there's no waste handling involved. It’s a usable product and we are currently trialling the compost on one of our suppliers farms to see if we can get the food to come back from that farm into the stadium again, so we create this full circle economy.
In 2019 the club also eradicated single use plastic cups and has removed PET bottles from the business this year. Bradshaw said:
Those sorts of things are going really well. What we have got to do is what we think is right for Manchester City and our Academy and our fans.
We continue to look at how we use and manage our energy. On site energy generation is a big opportunity for us that we're looking at in the coming years.
Manchester City has also made strides in offsetting its carbon footprint through some innovative projects. Bradshaw said:
I think the areas around our ecology programme are interesting. We have what we believe is an absolutely credible mitigation programme. We recognise what our carbon footprint is and that we need to practically and locally offset that with lots of guidance from Lancashire Wildlife Trust, the City Council through a collaboration with City of Trees and others, about how best to do that to get the greatest sequestration and impact.
Bradshaw said the club is also working proactively with fans, with the City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester to look at practical transport solutions for future match day travel to see how it can become much more sustainable.
Across 27 home matches from 2021-2022, Manchester City received almost 4,000 individual
feedbacks from fans about their match day travel. In excess of 200 Club staff also provided feedback about their commuting information. Bradshaw added:
In ‘Game Plan’ there is an example of a match day and we measure every match day to look at the impact it has. We need to work through that to see what practical solutions we can achieve. Those solutions have to engage our fans and make real, positive differences.
PSAM editor John Sheehan caught up with Yves De Cocker, Managing Director of PitchTecConcept, who explains how his company bridges the gap between sports organisations and the technology used in the playing surface industry.
PSAM Presents... PitchTecConcept from Hemming Group Video on Vimeo.
The interview covers:
Yves 20+ years industry leading experience in the evolution of hybrid grass, trends he has noticed and some of the notable projects he has been involved with
The key reasons for Yves launching PitchTecConcept
Common mistakes often made with playing surface management
The steps he offers as a bridge between the industry and the end user
Advice to clubs looking to maximise their event calendars without compromising on the performance of their playing surface