ECA has launched its first Sustainability Strategy – a key moment that underlines the association’s commitment to the biggest issues facing football, sport and the world at large.

 ECA Chairman, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi said:
 “Sustainability must be a priority for all stakeholders. Our sport faces huge challenges from climate change, racism and social exclusion - growing more urgent by the day.

“In the face of these challenges, it is our responsibility to take proactive measures within our sphere of influence to minimise the impact on our members, and supporting clubs in finding solutions locally. While acknowledging that we may not have all the solutions, our new Sustainability Strategy will be at the core of every decision going forward.”

The strategy is the culmination of a process that gained impetus last year with the appointment of a Head of Sustainability, Gaia Pretner, and the formation of a pan-European ECA Sustainability Working Group composed of representatives from ECA Member Clubs and led by Niclas Carlnén, CEO of Malmö FF and ECA Board Member. 

Niclas Carlnén said: “Establishing the ECA Sustainability Strategy marks an important moment for us. It not only shows our dedication to joining the broader shift towards sustainable and responsible practices but also serves the objective of ECA to act as a role model for its member clubs.

“Our focus will be to continue offering support and guidance to the ECA Members and other stakeholders, and this strategy highlights our commitment and willingness to effect positive change at industry and club level while we ensure club interests are safeguarded and promoted.”

Gaia Pretner added: “ECA’s approach is to lead by example in sustainability, inspiring and empowering clubs to take action. Our top management prioritised sustainability as one of ECA's eight key pillars for our upcoming strategic cycle. We have provided a comprehensive sustainability training for our entire ECA workforce and extended this education to our member clubs through six highly attended webinars on the topic.”

ECA’s view is that sustainability in football is no longer an optional or philanthropic, ad-hoc endeavour; it must be integrated into the core strategy of football organisations which are facing a number of significant social and environmental issues. ECA’s approach is to lead by example in sustainability, inspiring and empowering clubs to take action.

Detailing the strategy

ECA has outlined a five-step approach that the association and clubs need to adhere to in order to achieve successful integration. These are: 

  • Creating a dedicated structure or function focused on sustainability.
  • Defining a vision that aligns sustainability practices with good governance.
  • Assessing the club's impacts, risks and opportunities to establish clear priorities, targets and KPIs.
  • Publicising sustainability strategies through annual reports to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Adopting cross-functional initiatives that encompass training, capacity building and communication on sustainability principles.

Gaia Pretner explained: “Our social objectives revolve around the policies of combating racial discrimination from football, providing safe havens for young children; ensuring fair treatment and inclusion for all; making football accessible to people of all abilities; safeguarding the health and well-being of football participants of all ages; supporting refugee integration and championing dignity; and respect and equal rights for everyone.“

Added to that are four key environmental objectives:

  • Optimising the consumption and life cycle of products.
  • Taking climate action.
  • Shaping events to minimise environmental impact.
  • Providing guidance on infrastructure sustainability.

And four governance objectives:

  • Sustainability risk management.
  • Accountability and transparency through the commitment to publish a Sustainability Report every year and to develop and implement a Sustainability Management System.
  • Training and capacity building on sustainability topics for both ECA Staff and ECA Members.
  • Communication strategy on ECA sustainability related activities.

Niclas Carlnén added: “Our strategic partnership with UEFA is key to establishing and implementing the strategy. We have already launched various joint initiatives, such as the six webinars on UEFA sustainability licensing requirements. To ensure clarity and consistency for football clubs across Europe, it was essential to harmonise our sustainability policy areas with UEFA's 'Strength Through Unity' Sustainability Strategy.”

Launching the strategy Gaia Pretner concluded: “While acknowledging that we may not have all the solutions, we aim to showcase our dedication through concrete, measurable policies, objectives and KPIs. Our goal is to elevate European football's sustainability approach and motivate our member clubs to develop their own strategies and take consistent, impactful actions.”

The ECA Sustainability Strategy, she said, "takes our commitment to sustainability another level.”