Forest Green Rovers, a club based in Stroud, western England, and believed to be the first well-known “vegan” football club, hit the big time on Sunday after winning a Wembley play-off to reach the Football League in England for the first time.
Forest Greens win over Tranmere will taking them into League 2 next season, but Dale Vince, the chairman of the football club and renewable energy firm Ecotricity has bigger plans: He wants to take them all the way to the Championship, and meat will still not be on the menu.
The 100-year-old club aims to play a key role in “greening up Britain”. It says on its web site:
“At FGR we have the opportunity to create a truly sustainable football club, which would be a world first. Somewhere we can demonstrate all of our thinking and technology, and through that engage with a new, large and passionate audience.
“A global audience ultimately. It’s the chance to introduce some Eco into the world of sport, and not just football – as we’ve quickly discovered through our link with Gary Neville and Sustainability in Sport.”
The home ground of the “Green Devils”, known as the “New Lawn”, does not serve meat on any of its menus, instead choosing to serve “local, seasonal, fresh and organic food” wherever possible. Which would be a relief for anyone visiting a football ground in Australia.
“Burgers are really awful,” Vince told The Independent. “They’re the most awful parts of an animal and are really unappealing products that are cheap as dirt. We’ve replaced them with really high quality plant-based food.”
The club says it will be the first to have an “organic pitch, it collects water from under the pitch to use for pitch irrigation and will do the same with rainwater from the stadium roof .
It has a 45kW ground mounted solar array, and recently installed the UK’s first electric (and mostly solar powered) ‘mow-bot’ which mows the pitch without the need for human intervention – “saving up to 50 per cent of our groundsman’s working week – it even sends him a text if it runs into trouble.”
He plans a new stadium built almost entirely of wood due within the next five years – and insists on entirely vegan diet for both players and fans.
Vince told The Guardian recently that he wasn’t really a big football fan, but saw an opportunity to take our message to a new audience.
“The world of football doesn’t really get spoken to on environmental issues. I thought we could use it as a new channel, and quite an unexpected one, to talk about sustainability,” he said.
The former “hippy” and “new age traveller”, who in the 1990s was living in a converted car on a hill, using a windmill to power the lights, now has a personal fortune estimated to be more than £100m ($A160 million) through Ecotricety.
Midfielder Sam Wedgbury told The Guardian last week: “I feel better myself eating a vegan diet. I’ve taken some things into my home life, and I know some of the other lads have as well. I think it could be taken up by more football clubs.”
Vince told the Independent that the footballers are given a simple, carb-heavy meal two to three hours before a match – a pasta dish or jacket potatoes with baked beans, for example.