FIFA – this ain’t no scandal

by Marcus Bernard

Even though the FIFA World Cup started 6 days ago, the FIFA scandal remains at large. But, I am not here to discuss that. Instead, I want to bring light to other aspects of FIFA, mainly their sustainability initiative.

In 2006, FIFA, along with Coca-Cola and the LOC (Local Organizing Committee), founded Football for the Planet, which is an environmental program that ensures FIFA’s impact on the environment is as minimal as possible. FIFA states that, “Football for the Planet represents promise to reduce our impact on the environment and to use FIFA competitions to raise awareness of environmental issues”. But is this actually what is happening?

Well, let’s look at the most recently finished World Cup that took place in Brazil in 2014. FIFA released a very detailed outline of their projected environmental impact in Brazil and precautions they were taking to reduce it. There were three main issues they focused on:

  • Carbon Offsetting – estimated that total CO2 emissions would be 2.7M tonnes, of which 251,000 were under FIFA’s control
  • Sustainable Stadiums – installed solar panels in roof to obtain reusable energy
  • Waste Management Stadiums – ensure waste is properly handled and separated

During the 2014 World Cup, FIFA did a good job abiding by this outline. But, looking at this list, we can see that a lot of this just has to do with the environmental impact FIFA has during the World Cup, not after.

The main issue here is the pressure the World Cup puts on host countries and how these countries feel they need to invest money into constructing new stadiums or renovating old ones. Now, this is a lovely idea, but many countries do not have the funds to build these stadiums, yet because of the pressure and their desire to look good to tourists, they dish out money that they really do not have. FIFA claims that they do not “demand” that countries build stadiums, but everyone knows that does not mean much. Brazil, for example, built 7 stadiums, and renovated 5, which cost $4 billion. Many of the stadiums that Brazil created and/or renovated remain infrequently or never used; some costing US$1.47M per month to maintain. Most have just been turned into parking lots. This means they take up space, remove local businesses (due to construction), and take away money that could be used for local communities.

The economy can influence the environment and in this case, it does. Putting money into the construction of stadiums and just the World Cup as a whole leaves countries with no money left to restore their communities or environment. They do not want to demolish these billion dollar buildings, but have few options regarding how to rebuild their lives around it.

Stadium in Brazil during World Cup

Same stadium, now used as parking lot

These stadiums are maintained during the World Cup, and the environment is taken into consideration, but these stadiums remain after FIFA and all of the tourists have left. This causes a negative environmental impact that FIFA does not account for.

So, what is our evaluation of FIFA’s Football for the Planet? It is a good start.
Football for the Planet looks at the initial environmental impacts of the World Cup, and allows them to reduce their destruction on the environment. BUT, they need to begin to look at the aftermath of their fun, and put forth a helping hand to assist these host countries to rebuild, reuse, and reduce after. This is something FIFA should be focusing on to shine some positive vibes on their organization.

FIFA did not release any plans to address the environmental impact of the current Women’s World Cup in Canada.

What are your thoughts? Let us know below!

You can learn more about FIFA’s initiatives here

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