News Release

Final score - FA Cup vs the environment

Researchers reveal impact of soccer's big game

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Cardiff University

As the race to reach the FA Cup final intensifies, researchers at Cardiff University, UK, have revealed the environmental impact of the event.

The 73,000 supporters of Manchester United and Millwall at last year's Millennium Stadium final consumed 370,000 pints of beer, 38,000 pasties, 27,000 sandwiches, 24,000 portions of chips and 13,000 beef burgers.

Dr Andrea Collins and Dr Andrew Flynn, at the Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS) have analysed data from the fans' consumption, waste and transport use to produce an ecological footprint – a measure of consumption expressed in terms of the land area required to support it.

Their findings are reported in this week's [Thursday 14 April] New Scientist.

The footprint expresses resource consumption in terms of global hectares and since one hectare is about the same size as the football pitch in the Millennium Stadium, the environmental impacts are easy to imagine.

The key environmental impacts that arise during the Cup Final relate to:

  • how people travel to and from the game
  • the venue
  • food and drink consumption, and
  • the waste that is produced

    Last season's Final produced an ecological footprint of about 3,051 football pitches. The largest impact came from fans' travel patterns. This was because many travelled by car.

    "If match day travel by car could be replaced by coach travel, there would be 6,500 fewer cars on the road - and an additional 209 coaches - and the environmental impact could be reduced by as much as 24%, the equivalent of 399 football pitches," said Dr Andrea Collins.

    Close behind transport in its environmental impact was food and drink consumption. A typical group of 10 fans consume large quantities of food and drink during their short stay in Cardiff.

    Such high levels of consumption almost inevitably produce large amounts of waste, 59 tonnes on the day (equivalent to 146 football pitches), most of it glass and food.

    "The environmental impact of the waste could be minimised by recycling or reducing the amount of waste produced in the first instance," said Dr Flynn. "Recycling food and drink packaging alone could reduce the footprint of waste by as much as 14%."

    The Millennium Stadium itself contributes a very small amount to the ecological footprint of the FA Cup Final. Despite using some 40,000 tonnes of concrete and 18,500 tonnes of steel, the potentially long lifespan of the Stadium combined with its large number of users means that on a per event basis the venue attracts a very low footprint score - an area equivalent to about one tenth of a football pitch.

    "Eco-Footprinting is a consistent method for measuring environmental impact which can be applied at different levels; such as a country, a city or an individual activity. As such it has been a valuable tool for informing our bid to make London 2012 the first 'Sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games' and provides the rationale for our theme: Towards a One Planet Olympics," said David Stubbs, Environmental Project Manager for London 2012.


    The FA (Football Association) Cup is the most prestigious competition for soccer clubs in England and Wales, and arguably the biggest domestic soccer competition in the world.

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