Geography, Sport and Climate Change

The Geography department are taking part in GeoNight 2023. This ‘Night of Geography’ is a global initiative that thousands of people take part in worldwide; the events and activities give the general public chance to familiarise themselves with geography and geographical research. We are showcasing some of the innovative work we do at Northampton with activities on the geographies of sport and climate change.

GeoNight is held on 14 April 2023, but these information and activities will remain on the website for you to return to in your own time.

Introduction to GeoNight


  • On this page, you will find a variety of activities and resources that you are welcome to complete in your own time.
  • This webpage will remain live for you to access at any time.
  • There is an introductory video that you can watch and then there are three case studies to explore.
  • Please contact us if you wish to find out more about any of the issues covered or ask any questions
  • This short video by The Conversation reflects on research that has shown that the environmental sustainability initiatives used by sports teams can encourage behavioural change in fans.

    Reflect on your own views of sport:

    • Does it matter to you what your team is doing in relation to sustainability and climate change?
    • What, if anything, do you know about your team’s commitment to this?
    Premier League Sustainability Rankings

    Since 2018/19, the Football clubs in the Premier League have been ranked based on their efforts to become more environmentally sustainable.

    Most recently Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC were ranked top of this league; you can find out more about the things these clubs are doing and look how other Premier League teams were ranked.

    • Do you think teams are doing enough? If not, what more do you think they could do?
    • If you support a Premier League team, did you know what your team were doing?
    • What do you think are some of the barriers or challenges that clubs face when trying to become more sustainable?
    Best Practice Example: Forest Green Rovers FC

    Forest Green Rovers FC have been described as “the greenest football club in the world”. They are the only vegan football club, and the first club in the world to be certified as carbon neutral by the United Nations.

    As well as actioning environmental plans, they are actively trying to educate fans and visitors on sustainability issues to broaden their impact outside of their stadium, including their future plans to build the world’s greenest football stadium.

    You can also access a short case study about how Forest Green Rovers became a “truly sustainable football club”.

  • Few sports are more intrinsically connected to their environment.

    The way in which cricket is played is defined by local conditions including air temperature, humidity, soil temperature, soil moisture, windspeed and sunlight. The sport, at least the way in which it is currently played, is very vulnerable to climate change.

    In recent years, it has been possible to identify a number of ways in which the sport has already been impacted by the changing climate. It is particularly important to remember that it is both recreational cricket, as well as the professional game, that is being impacted.

    For example in the UK, community cricket clubs are often located on flood plains where land values are lower, but this means they are at risk of regular flooding both during the winter and during the summer months. Worcestershire County Cricket Club is located on the banks of the River Severn where the ground is flooded so frequently that there are display boards to show the public the extent of the flood events. The frequency and severity of flooding has become much worse in recent years and this has been attributed to climate change.

    Case study: Lords Cricket Ground

    The Lords ground provided the best example in cricket of the application of sustainable practices at their ground. They put ambitious targets in place yet have managed to achieve some of these targets several years early.

    Global Impacts of Climate Change on Cricket

    The current and potential future impacts of climate change on cricket can be observed in numerous countries around the world.

    • India: In 2016 Indian Premier League matches were relocated away from Maharashtra due to water shortages
    • Bangladesh: has been identified by the World Bank as a potential impact hotspot – vulnerable to extreme river flooding; intense tropical cyclones; rising sea levels; warmer air temperatures
    • Sri Lanka & West Indies: vulnerable to rising sea levels
    • Zimbabwe: increasing rainfall uncertainty
    • Australia: predicted to experience more extreme droughts.

    In December 2019, a match in Canberra, Australia was cancelled because of the amount of smoke in the air over the stadium coming from nearby bushfires.

  • Is Formula One a sustainable sport in its current form?

    • It is a fossil fuel-intensive industry – with high fuel usage, but emissions have been reduced in recent years.
    • Racing accounts for 0.3% of the sport’s carbon emissions.
    • Most emissions derive from raw materials, manufacturing and electricity usage in wind tunnels and computing.
    • Formula One teams fly an average of 160,000km for testing and racing each year.

    The Conversation discusses the current environmental position of Formula One.

    Case Study: McLaren Racing Team

    The McLaren Racing team is a carbon-neutral company. Some of the initiatives they have in place include:

    • Emission controls
    • The use of off-setting measures to counter the amount of flying
    • Two-thirds of waste they produce is recycled. None of their waste is sent to landfill.
    • The technology centre headquarters of the racing team is energy efficient. It is warmed by a thermal buffer, cooled by a lake and roofed with recycled tyres!
    Future of Formula One and Sustainability

    In order to make the sport more sustainable, Formula One has a number of plans in place with an overall aim of becoming carbon-neutral by 2030. When the plan was published, the intention was to implement it over several years, however, adaptations necessitate by the covid-19 pandemic required these to being earlier.

    For example, there was a two year plan to end on-site TV production at every race. Through this they aimed to reduce shipping tonnes of freight every week. Remote TV production was forcibly implemented for 8 weeks due to the pandemic and all TV production was based out of London. This change immediately brought about a significant reduction in carbon footprint.

  • Having explored this information, here are a few questions that you might want to reflect on:

    • How can we use sport as a platform for change in relation to climate change?
    • How could we convey some of these case studies to the public to highlight the issue of climate change?
    • What sort of initiatives could be introduced in recreational sport?
    • What sort of initiatives could be introduced in professional sport?
    • How do we ensure that initiatives are socially acceptable and not seen as ‘destroying’ sport?
    • How do we encourage wider changes beyond sports participation and sporting spaces?
More information

The content covered in this activity reflects the issues and case studies that would be covered in our Geographies of Sport final year undergraduate module. This specialist module is unique to the University of Northampton and is available to anyone studying on our Geography BSc programme.

The social issues related to environmental change are embedded throughout our courses and you can also study modules where you will learn lots more about the science of global climate change.

Contact Us:

Dr Catherine Waite
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography
University of Northampton

Twitter: @catherine_waite @geognorthampton
Instagram: @northamptonenvgeo

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