Op-Ed: Sport Can't play without a planet

16 Jul 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

Sport has a leading role to play in tackling the climate crisis, and as the first 'carbon negative' sport, SailGP, gears up for its British Sailing Grand Prix this weekend, the league's Director of Purpose and Impact, Fiona Morgan, looks at the solutions to the problem.

Not before time, the world of sport is waking up to the existential threat it faces due to climate change. 

Because, let’s be clear, sport isn’t just one of many parts of our society that will be affected, it will be one of the first dominoes to fall. 

The impact of changing climate on the environments that we need to play sport is going to be dramatic. To give just one example, by 2050, over 570 low-lying coastal cities, including some of our SailGP host venues such as Plymouth, St Tropez and Sydney, will face projected sea level rise by at least 0.5 meters, putting more than 800 million people at risk from the impact of rising seas, extreme weather, and storm surges. 

With rising temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns, sport may be unrecognisable by 2050, something the BBC did a fantastic job of capturing in their Sport 2050 report and Sky Sports’ Sky0 takeover campaign acknowledged this week. 

So, what are the different solutions we need to consider? 

I believe that creating meaningful change on climate is about taking responsibility and making changes where you can and being accountable for your actions. We need to be able to understand the impact of every single part of our sports ecosystem if we are going to be able to make a meaningful difference. 

That is why this week we at SailGP have launched a world-first – the Impact League. We have become the first sport to integrate positive impact on sustainability into the scoring system of our sport itself. Making our mantra of ‘race for the future’ part of the fabric of our very sport. 

Throughout SailGP’s global league, the eight international teams will be rewarded for the positive actions they make to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing. 

Each team will compete and be accountable across ten key sustainability criteria, ranging from pioneering new technologies focusing on clean energy solutions and removing all single-use plastics, to diversity and inclusion and using the team's voice for good. 

At the end of the season – which culminates in San Francisco in March 2022 – there will be two podiums, with the winning team crowned alongside the Season Champions and earning $100k funding for its purpose partner, who supports and advises them throughout the season and is visible on the team’s livery.

It's one a step towards finding a solution, but it’s an approach that our athletes and teams are hugely supportive of. It’s also something we believe other sports could look to implement. 

Sir Ben Ainslie, CEO and driver of the Great Britain SailGP Team summed it up well speaking at the launch this week. 

He said that ‘sustainability will now become as important as the race on the water’ and that he ‘hoped other sports can look at the Impact League and embrace that into their own sports’.

We are determined to help collaborate across the world of sport for the benefit of all, and we hope to work with other sports to create their own versions of the Impact League. Because only together, will we turn the tide on sport’s climate crisis.