“Nine months of planning and discussions of a shared vision for sustainability in football and wider society. So happy to have joined the Forest Green Rovers Football Club journey. Loads more to come in the future to help our 🌏 #WeAreFGR.” This was the message from Arsenal’s pacy Spanish right back, Hector Bellerin, as he announced investment in the English League Two club, Forest Green Rovers, becoming the South Gloucestershire of South West England club’s second biggest shareholder. The club is creating an enchanting agenda of sustainable environment and has been recognised by FIFA and the United Nations (UN) as the world’s most environmentally friendly team.
Bellerin, 25 years of age, is one of the most socially conscious sportsman of his generation. He was at the club’s stadium six years ago as a starry-eyed teenager seeking to impress Arsene Wenger to earn a place in the first team of Arsenal. He featured in the reserve’s preseason game against Forest Green Rovers (FGR), a game Arsenal won by 6 – 4 in a highly entertaining match that saw the Arsenal Reserves coming back from two goals down. He was too preoccupied with the prospect of joining Arsenal’s first team, to notice the FGR’s sustainable environment agenda.
Bellerin is making this decision in line with his principle that footballers should take the responsibility of creating awareness about the dire environmental issues compounding the globe and make impactful efforts to improve the earth’s sustainability.
Bellerin has not hidden his passion for conservation and his ambition to tackle climate change within society, undertaking a campaign to plant 3,000 trees for every Arsenal victory during ‘project restart’.
Speaking on joining the club’s ‘green revolution’, the Gunner said: “I was really excited when I first discovered the opportunity to get involved at Forest Green Rovers – and the brilliant work the club is already doing. It’s important that I invest in things I am passionate about – and I’m excited to help push football into having a sustainable future.
“Forest Green Rovers prove to clubs who say ‘they don’t have resources to be sustainable’ – that it is possible. With the new stadium, being carbon neutral and vegan the club is doing some mind-blowing work. People have a universal love of football, so there’s no better industry to promote sustainability – and what we can do as football supporters to be more environmentally conscious.
“I became a vegan around three years ago and at first, I just wanted to try it and detox my body. Initially, I thought I’d eat meat as a ‘treat’ – but, being vegan just worked for me. After a month of being vegan, I felt stronger – and I didn’t struggle with ankle injuries anymore. I began to feel more energetic on the pitch – and I began to notice a real difference.”
“I remember playing a pre-season friendly against Forest Green about six years ago – but at that time, I wasn’t too aware of the path the club was taking and I was just focusing on getting into the first-team at Arsenal! I have so much respect for everything that Dale Vince is doing with the club – and he’s paving the way for everyone else in the sport.”
“Forest Green are showing others the way,” Bellerin said. “So many people feel there’s no solution to the world’s problems, but Forest Green are already doing plenty. I’m so excited to be part of the FGR family. I’ll be helping where I can, supporting people who want to change the world for the better.”
Recently the Arsenal player helped raised money to plant 60,000 tress in the amazon rainforest of South America.
FGR Chairman Dale Vince said: “I like Hector’s approach, his personal journey and the things he’s trying to do – they make sense. I’m looking forward to working with him on our projects at FGR and this wider agenda we have a shared interest in.”
League Two club Forest Green Rovers, Gloucestershire-based, have been recognised by FIFA and the United Nations as the world’s most environmentally friendly team. Also, the club became fully vegan on their menu in 2015, also becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral sports club in 2017.
Bellerin’s new role with FGR will see him work with chairman Dale Vince and the club on raising the environmental agenda in football – among clubs, leagues and fans.
Bellerin’s shareholding is not above a threshold where it would be deemed a conflict of interest.
“As I heard more about the club and its work, I knew I wanted to meet them and be part of it.”
Vince, who has installed an organic pitch and has consulted with Premier League teams about also going green, said: “I like Hector’s approach, his personal journey and the things he’s trying to do – they make sense.
“I’m looking forward to working with him on FGR and this wider agenda we have a shared interest in.”
Sources: Forest Green Rovers; BBC