No Immunity: Women’s Football and Climate Change

A bush fire in rural Queensland woodlands.
A 2010 bush fire runs rampant at Captain Creek, Queensland in northeastern Australia. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The consequences of climate change have not gone unnoticed by female footballers. Chelsea player Sam Kerr donated a signed kit to raise money for the Australia Bushfire Relief. The Spanish women’s national football team have become the first sustainable squad to implement initiatives to combat climate change.

Climate change may seem a political issue distanced from the world of women’s football. However, the reality is that climate change has the ability to influence every part of our lives. Women’s football is not immune to its effects. From extreme weather causing stadium flooding, to consequences of extreme temperatures causing heat stroke or exhaustion.

By 2050, 23 of the 92 league grounds in England can expect partial or total annual flooding of their stadiums (David Goldblatt, 2020).

The UK has had an increase in extreme weather, including heavy rainfall and storms. Winter rainfall is estimated to increase by 70-100% by 2080 (Campelli, 2020). On average, grassroots football clubs lose five weeks every season due to bad weather. More than one third of these clubs lose between two and three months on the pitch. 

Impossible to ignore

This will definitely impair the performance of women’s football, along with provoking debates around equality and prioritisation for pitch time from training to playing times between male and female footballers. This debate could extend to the use of equipment and overall support of the players.

The support players will require in line with the changing climate effects will also change. For instance, the nature of injuries, rehab and challenges to mental health are likely to differ as a consequence of climate change. Further survival of clubs reliant on match day revenue would be under threat due to any prolonged disruption.

Women’s football cannot ignore the impact of climate change as a governance or business issue. The lack of education and scientific awareness around climate change among sports managers and officials is a fundamental problem and one that is going to become difficult to ignore (Campelli, 2020).

The FA are aware of climate change being an issue and have stated they will invest £48million in hundreds of new all-weather and specially adapted turf pitches across the country addition to further upgrading more than 200 existing pitches nationwide (Paf-media, 2018-2021).

The challenges that climate change poses is still very new to sporting governances. Scaling back workout intensity or cancelling practices due to hot weather thirty years ago would be a rare precaution. As temperatures vary from one extreme to another across the world, the need for protect women’s football and its survival will be more prominent than ever.

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