Forest Green Rovers: the greenest ascension party in the world

The Forest Green Rovers from England are the first vegan club in the world. This Saturday they celebrate their first promotion to 3rd division with their fans, never before has a smaller club been this high on the island. And an all-wood stage will soon follow.

Lasting celebration: Forest Green Rovers players after promotion to League One.
IMAGO / Professional sports images

The terminology is a bit confusing. The Premier League has been the upper house of English football since 1992. Below that in the league, however, it is not really the championship, but at the top of the title in the 2nd league. And even League One has little first class, it’s only the third league. Although “only” does not apply to everyone, because for the Forest Green Rovers League One it is almost the promised land. Yet only a beginning.

The small county club of Gloucestershire has never made it to the third division before, so the promotion is being celebrated even more violently. And everyone in England is listening too, because the Rovers pursue a very special plan: they want to be the first professional club in the world to be completely climate neutral. Soon Forest Green will start construction of the Eco Park, a stadium made entirely of wood. The project has also received awards from the United Nations and FIFA.

The party started in the cabin with vegan pizza

Sustainability in football also means: no meat on the menu, no exhaust fumes from the team bus. On Saturday, the team made the short 40-kilometer journey to Bristol Rovers aboard an all-electric bus made in China, wearing tracksuits and jerseys made from leftover coffee and recycled materials. Bristol’s 0-0 was enough to finally make the rise clear. After that, the players in the locker room started their party with vegan pizza. “I’ve never seen a club where everyone is moving in the same direction as us,” said center-back Dan Sweeney.

This Saturday is the last home game of the season against Harrogate Town and there are even standing tickets in the western grandstand to celebrate the day. Around 6,000 people will be in the stadium, which this season has been called “The fully loaded New Lawn”. Conveniently, after the final whistle, the fans can fill up with drinks directly on the pitch.

The arena in Nailsworth, a town of 7,000 inhabitants about 180 kilometers west of London, takes its name from the YouTube channel “Fully Charged”, which revolves mainly around electric cars and which has acquired the naming rights. The players’ company cars are also fully powered, the stadium has only had plant-based food since 2015, just like the team usually does, and of course the turf is not given any artificial fertilizer. At first it was a change for both the fans and the professionals, but now, it is said, even away fans have gotten used to the falafel stand.

The top scorer wants to celebrate with crutches: he just broke his cruciate ligament

This is all based on the ideas of Dale Vince, 60, who the Guardian described as “England’s richest hippie”. He started his own business with wind turbines, in 2010 Vince took over the indebted amateur club and turned it over. Twelve years later, Forest Green Rovers became the world’s first vegan club and made it to the English third division.

“Let’s enjoy this moment,” says coach Rob Edwards. The 39-year-old has played for Wolverhampton and Blackpool, as well as 15 times for Wales, and it looks like his battery is full of energy. A smaller club has never been in the top 68 teams in England, in the future it will be against former Premier League clubs such as Derby County (current manager: Wayne Rooney), Portsmouth or Ipswich Town, UEFA Cup winners in 1981. Really well-known players have Edwards not yet in his League One squad. Matty Stevens, the team’s top scorer with 23 goals, tore a cruciate ligament in his knee and underwent surgery on Wednesday. The 24-year-old striker wants to be on crutches at Saturday’s party.

Affordable housing will be built on the site of the old stadium

And then there are the next projects. Last week, approval was granted for the construction of the new training center for the men’s and women’s teams and the academy. Then comes the wooden stadium, designed by the star architect Zaha Hadid. Ecological and affordable housing will be built on the site of the old stadium.

The question remains: how do you get to the away games in a climate neutral way? The electric bus for the trip to Bristol was only hired by a company that also transported members of the royal family for a few years. The 48-seater with a range of around 320 kilometers costs around 400,000 euros. “Transportation is one of the last pieces of the puzzle for us,” club boss Vince said recently. He is also trying to solve this problem in a sustainable way.

Leave a Comment