Sportswash is at all times an personal aim

In an try to halt the unfold of greenwash and sportswash in sport, this 12 months the Badvertising marketing campaign and Rapid Transition Alliance launched the Bad Sport Awards 2022 to name out massive polluters and the sports activities organisations that ally with them.

Picked by a panel of knowledgeable judges, together with an Olympic gold medallist and notable local weather scientist, this 12 months’s total winner – the last word Dangerous Sport – was the Males’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar for the explanations outlined above.

The opposite award classes make clear extra examples of egregious greenwash and sportswash. As an illustration, the ‘Taking Folks for a Experience’ award was gained by INEOS for his or her continued use {of professional} biking to launder their popularity with the INEOS Grenadiers.

Hijacking considered one of humanity’s best low carbon transport choices, whereas pushing for brand spanking new fracking licences within the UK, and to not point out advertising a brand new SUV, the Grenadier, to bolster their public picture is an ideal illustration of sportswash.


For the ‘Personal Purpose’ award, which explores probably the most obvious failures of company sustainability initiatives, Manchester Metropolis F.C’s water bottle for air miles recycling trade scheme took the highest prize.

The ‘Skating on Skinny Ice’ award, which pulls consideration to greenwash and sports activities inside winter sports activities, was gained by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers staff, who proceed to run the Oilfield Community for companies and suppliers energetic within the Canadian fossil gas {industry}.

As Award decide, Etienne Stott MBE, Olympic Gold medalist and environmental campaigner, mentioned: “Sport has the ability to vary lives and attain into folks’s hearts, firing their imaginations.

“It due to this fact sickens me to see the great thing about sport corrupted and cheapened by manufacturers whose enterprise fashions are demonstrably at odds with the pursuits of all sports activities followers, and actually all life on earth.”

Whereas decide, Invoice McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical & Local weather Hazards at UCL, writer of Hothouse Earth: an Inhabitant’s Information, and award decide, mentioned: “The brief listing for this 12 months’s Dangerous Sports activities awards highlights an appalling litany of faux-green nonsense and blatant sportswash.” 


Concentrating on sports activities is sensible for these Massive Polluters and their promoting companies – and that’s why they have to be known as out.

Sport has a novel means to achieve billions worldwide frequently and its golf equipment and tournaments have values, tales, and reputational legacies that manufacturers can simply piggy-back on with minimal public scrutiny.

Sport additionally gives advertisers and sponsors the advantage of being related to wholesome exercise, which is very ironic when the air air pollution brought on by automobiles, planes and the burning of fossil fuels is so damaging to the well being of athletes and followers alike.

The constructive emotional connotations related to the spectacle of sport is co-opted by firms with chequered pasts by means of promoting and business partnerships that enable them to launder their reputations. Scientific studies show that this practice works. 

Sport giving a platform to Massive Polluters has the texture of a Shakespearian tragedy when you think about sport’s vulnerability within the face of local weather change. Over the subsequent three many years, one quarter of English league soccer grounds will likely be in danger from flooding each season, whereas one in three British Open golf programs will likely be subsumed by rising sea ranges. 


Snowsports, that are acutely vulnerable to rising world temperatures, could grow to be a factor of the previous altogether. The latest Beijing Winter Olympic Video games relied completely on synthetic snow.

So as to add insult to harm, the 2021 Video games boasted Air China, Toyota, the Chinese language Nationwide Petroleum Company, and Chinese language oil and gasoline large Sinopec as sponsors.

Some will ask “so what?”. The financialization of worldwide sport has created a billion pound promoting sub-industry, with {many professional} sports activities golf equipment now reliant upon business revenues to enhance their amenities and groups.

However following this view requires an entire abandonment of duty from sports activities’ governing our bodies. Sport has an obligation to guard the athletes that play it, the followers that make it what it’s, and the environments that allow it to be performed – each now and sooner or later.

Main sports activities occasions like World Cups and Olympics are keen on speaking up the ‘legacy’ they go away behind, it is one of many main features when cities and international locations bid to host such mega occasions. But, for the time being, one of many greatest legacies the World Cup is ready to contribute to is an unlivable, heating local weather.


This implies sport should cease giving a platform to firms which might be disproportionately answerable for driving the local weather disaster and polluting our air, land, and sea. Cultural establishments just like the Nationwide Portrait Gallery and the Scottish Ballet have efficiently turned their backs on fossil gas sponsors after highly effective grassroots campaigns.

Cities, cities, and even complete international locations are getting in on the motion, implementing high-carbon promoting bans on local weather grounds. It is just a matter of time earlier than high-carbon sponsorship offers grow to be a reputational hazard that sports activities golf equipment and tournaments can not ignore.

Anna Jonsson of New Climate Sweden, a Dangerous Sports activities Award decide, mentioned: “The Dangerous Sport Awards spotlight how high-carbon sponsorship in sport is as pervasive as it’s dangerous. Sports activities organisations, and its governing our bodies, should assessment their very own sponsorship tips in gentle of the local weather disaster and instantly kick-out Massive Polluters.”

We will hope that the World Cup in Qatar acts as a line within the sand for greenwashing and high-carbon sponsorship in sport, however there’s an actual danger that it’ll grow to be additional normalised and institutionalised.

Sport has an unparalleled energy to achieve billions on issues of local weather, and its values of teamwork, management, and a reluctance to cheat are precisely what have to be harnessed within the combat in opposition to local weather change. 

These Authors

Freddie Daley, of the Cool Down – sport for climate action network, a community of sports activities organisations calling for local weather motion in and thru sport

Andrew Simms is co-director of the New Weather Institute, coordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, an writer new and inexperienced economics and co-author of the unique Inexperienced New Deal. He’s on twitter at @AndrewSimms_uk.


Leave a Reply