ESSMA Stadium Industry Awards: nominees Sustainability

ESSMA launches the Stadium Industry Awards: These prestigious awards are designed to celebrate and honour the best initiatives in the stadium industry across various categories. Over the past weekend, members could submit their case. In this article, we highlight all nominated projects from the 'Sustainability' category. Discover all the cases below and cast your vote now! The winners will be announced at our ESSMA Summit 2024during an award ceremony at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam. 

Nominees in the Sustainability category

1. Waste collection project “At work for a better world” - Liverpool FC, England

Challenge: Plastic pollution, with 19-23 million tonnes of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems annually. Specifically, PET plastic bottles at Anfield created a significant waste issue.

Initiative: Collaborative project with SC Johnson to educate fans on plastic waste and introduce a PET upcycling system, turning bottles into Mr Muscle products.


  • Closed loop recycling system, eliminating landfill waste for Liverpool FC.
  • Joint waste reduction pledge with SC Johnson to decrease club waste.
  • Fan education through various campaigns and activations, emphasising sustainable practices.
  • Internal staff training for waste management, extending to Liverpool FC Women’s team.

Innovation & Inclusivity:

  • A world-first in football, demonstrating innovation and industry leadership.
  • Aligns with Liverpool FC's "The Red Way" strategy, focusing on people, planet, and communities.
  • Spreads sustainability message to fans locally and globally, engaging with communities.


  • 21/22 Season: 25% PET bottle collection rate.
  • 22/23 Season: 90% PET bottle collection rate, marked by improved education and messaging.
  • Current 23/24 Season (as of 18/09): 84% PET bottle collection rate, introduced fan rewards for engagement.
  • SC Johnson to launch Mr Muscle product from Anfield recycled PET plastic in early 2024.

Liverpool FC's PET Upcycling Initiative is a pioneering, innovative, and inclusive sustainability effort that successfully reduces waste and educates fans, marking a significant step towards a more sustainable future.

2. Microplastic reduction – VfL Wolfsburg, Germany

Challenge: Microplastics pollution poses significant environmental and health risks, especially due to the discharge of plastic granulate from synthetic turf pitches into the environment. VfL Wolfsburg aims to address this issue.

Initiative: VfL Wolfsburg is taking a multifaceted approach to tackle microplastics pollution, focusing on the release of microplastics from their hybrid turf, sports clothing, and merchandise.


  • Custom-built filters, developed in collaboration with Guppyfriend, are installed to capture granulate discharged by footballers and washed off the pitch.
  • Similar filter solutions are employed for washing machines used to clean jerseys and training clothes.
  • Exhaust air dryers are equipped with commercially available filters to prevent microplastics emissions.

Innovation & Inclusivity:

  • VfL Wolfsburg is actively seeking innovative solutions in collaboration with start-ups like Guppyfriend.
  • The initiative has broader implications, with filter solutions designed for potential use by municipalities, grassroots sports clubs, and other professional clubs.
  • It aligns with the club's biodiversity initiative, demonstrating VfL Wolfsburg's commitment to comprehensive measures for environmental sustainability.


  • A study by the Fraunhofer Institute found that artificial turf pitches can lose up to 4.67 tonnes of infill material annually, with an average of 2.98 tonnes.
  • At VfL Wolfsburg, 500 kg of granulate have been retained by installed filters since the project's inception.
  • Filter efficiency is nearly 100% for performance infill material and over 90% for press materials.

VfL Wolfsburg's Microplastics Reduction Initiative represents an innovative and comprehensive approach to mitigate microplastics pollution, showcasing the club's commitment to sustainability and environmental protection. In August 2023, VfL Wolfsburg became the first German football club to join the "Sports for Nature" initiative. With its systematic and innovative commitment to nature, VfL once again confirms its pioneering role as a green club.

3. Integration of CSR initiatives in club licensing – LFP, France

Challenge: Following the French Ministry of Sport's National Sobriety Plan For Sport, the LFP (Ligue de Football Professionnel) aimed to encourage long-term adoption of sustainability measures by professional football clubs and change their operating practices.

Initiative: LFP incorporated sustainability criteria within its "Licence Club" (Club Licensing System) to motivate and guide clubs towards environmental responsibility.


  • The "Licence Club" consists of evolving criteria, and clubs must fulfil them to obtain it, unlocking a portion of TV rights.
  • The new "Social and Environmental Responsibility" criteria were introduced, covering energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, carbon footprint, waste management, and more.
  • Clubs are required to provide concrete evidence of their achievements for each criteria.

Innovation & Inclusivity:

  • LFP created a direct link between TV rights income and clubs' concrete sustainability efforts, incentivising positive change.
  • Clubs set an example for their fans and local communities, fostering sustainability awareness.
  • Collaboration among various stakeholders, including state ministries, leagues, clubs, media, and TV rights holders, in support of a national sustainability cause.


1. Initial results include:

  • 86% of clubs limiting stadium heating to 19°C.
  • 50% of stadiums equipped with LED lighting.
  • An 80% reduction in grass heating, with 43% of clubs completely discontinuing grass heating.
  • 100% of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games respecting reduced lighting timing since October.

2. Data from the observatory on energy use, including energy and water consumption, insulation of heating networks, and sustainability initiatives across clubs.

3. More comprehensive data expected as the Club Licensing campaign progresses.

LFP's innovative approach to aligning TV rights income with sustainability actions and promoting environmental responsibility among professional football clubs demonstrates a pioneering initiative in the realm of sports sustainability.

4. ESG: inclusive MD Experience – FC Porto, Portugal

Challenge: The challenge addressed by this initiative is the limited accessibility and inclusion of individuals with disabilities, particularly those with hearing and visual impairments, within the matchday experience. Existing solutions often neglect the needs of these fans, resulting in their exclusion from the live sports experience.

Initiative: FC Porto's initiative aims to provide a truly inclusive matchday experience for all fans. Two key initiatives have been introduced: inclusive summaries and sign language integration on stadium screens.


  • Inclusive Summaries: These summaries offer game information with added audio descriptions and sign language, making it accessible to both hearing and visually impaired individuals.
  • Sign Language Integration: FC Porto partnered with Betano to promote International Sign Language Day, with players wearing jerseys featuring the BETANO logo in Portuguese Sign Language.

Innovation & Inclusivity:

  • The initiative is innovative in its holistic approach, gradually implementing various measures to actively engage individuals with disabilities in the complete matchday experience.
  • It sets a creative and forward-thinking example in addressing accessibility and inclusion challenges in the sports world.


  • Anticipated outcomes include a significantly improved and more accessible matchday experience for individuals with visual and hearing impairments, encouraging greater diversity among spectators.
  • The initiative is expected to raise awareness about the importance of accessibility in sports and inspire similar initiatives in the broader sporting community.
  • Positive feedback from disabled fans reaffirms the effectiveness and significance of these initiatives in enhancing the fan experience and promoting inclusivity.

5. ECO Benfica Circular Economy: used cooking oil – SL Benfica, Portugal 

Challenge: Benfica's initiative addresses the challenge of managing used cooking oil (UCO) generated at its stadium. With various service providers offering fan zones, bars, restaurants, and lounges on match days, there was a substantial volume of UCO that required appropriate disposal. The initiative sought to manage this waste in an environmentally responsible manner.

Initiative: The ECOBenfica project partnered with a national start-up to transform UCO into 100% biodegradable upcycling cleaning products. This involved collecting UCO from stadium service providers and converting it into eco-friendly cleaning solutions used in the stadium's cleaning operations. The project aligns with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by addressing sewage network protection (SDG 6), enhancing ecologic cleaning product production and use (SDG 12), and preventing chemical agent release into sewage networks (SDG 14).


  • The project involved informing and partnering with third-party service providers at the stadium, requiring them to deliver all UCO generated in their concessions to Ambioleo for collection.
  • Ambioleo ensured that all UCO collections adhered to national and European regulations governing UCO disposal.
  • ECOxperience laboratories transformed the collected UCO into cleaning products using surfactants that are highly biodegradable.
  • The upcycled detergents were then integrated into the stadium's cleaning services, creating a complete circular economy cycle.
  • Plans are in place to extend the project to other stakeholders, including the community and supporters.

Innovation & Inclusivity:

  • The project is innovative due to its disruptive approach and the advanced technology developed by the partner, ECOXperience.
  • It demonstrates creativity by involving the community, particularly younger players and schools, in a unique educational initiative.
  • The project is inclusive, aiming to positively influence various stakeholders and the surrounding urban area, promoting a change in mindsets through leading by example.


  • Since its launch in December 2022, the project has collected over 2,600 litters of UCO from various stakeholders, contributing to environmental sustainability and circular economy principles.

6. Net Positive 2030 – Johan Cruijff ArenA, Netherlands

Challenge: The Johan Cruijff ArenA aims to become Net Positive by 2030, signifying its commitment to making a positive impact on society and the climate, rather than just minimizing its environmental footprint. The challenge was to transform the stadium into a model of sustainability, going beyond traditional green initiatives.

Initiative: The Net Positive 2030 initiative at the Johan Cruijff ArenA is a ground-breaking effort to not only reduce its environmental impact but also make a positive contribution. In collaboration with partners like Ajax and the municipality of Amsterdam, the initiative is focused on achieving sustainability in football matches, concerts, and other events hosted at the arena. The aim is to create a sustainable and habitable world for future generations by giving back more than is consumed.


  • The initiative is unique in the industry, with no other venue having such an ambitious Net Positive goal.
  • Key measures and projects include creating 1,000 jobs, establishing an operational mobility centre, implementing LED grow lights over the turf, installing 4,200 solar panels, adopting a gas-free infrastructure for the arena, using sustainable heat and cold sources, implementing a separated waste system, utilizing an energy-generating escalator, improving energy waste management, and procuring solar and wind energy.
  • The initiative focuses on measuring and monitoring environmental performance (scope 1 and 2 emissions) through a dashboard on the Global Sustainable Event Standard (GSES) platform.

Innovation & Inclusivity:

  • The initiative is highly innovative as it goes beyond typical sustainability practices, aiming to set a new standard for venues and events.
  • It introduces creative solutions and approaches to minimize environmental impact while fostering inclusivity and collaboration.


  • The initiative has introduced several sustainability measures and projects, including solar panels, LED lights, waste management, and the commitment to procure renewable energy sources.
  • Implemented 4,200 solar panels, Operational mobility centre, LED grow lights, gas-free infrastructure, Separated waste system, Energy-generating escalator, energy waste management, Procurement of solar and wind energy....

Cast your vote here

Posted on 15/11/2023 in: