FA Cup final fans leave enormous 'ecological footprint' on the big day

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The environment was probably not the first thing on the minds of the 73,000 spectators packed into the Millennium stadium for the FA Cup final last year.

The environment was probably not the first thing on the minds of the 73,000 spectators packed into the Millennium stadium for the FA Cup final last year.

But as they ate and drank their way through 370,000 pints of beer, 38,000 pasties, 27,000 sandwiches, 24,000 bags of chips and 13,000 beef burgers they were consuming, a study points out, huge amounts of energy.

An area of land equivalent to more than 3,000 football pitches would be needed to make the energy consumed by the supporters at the game in Cardiff.

Researchers have assessed the "ecological footprint" - the land needed to produce the energy for transport, packaging and food - created by the spectators as part of an investigation into the environmental impact of staging huge public spectacles.

They discovered that the fans produced 59 tons of waste. It would have taken an area of land equivalent to 146 football pitches to produce the energy needed to manufacture such produce.

Andrea Collins and Andrew Flynn of the Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society, analysed the total consumption of the spectators who attended last year's final to estimate the hypothetical area of land required to support the use of such resources.

"It's more about managing the impact on the environment of the supporters. It's the first time that anyone has gone about looking at the global impact of such events," Dr Collins said.

They found that the ecological footprint of the football match is equivalent to an area the size of 3,051 football pitches

A large part of the footprint was caused by people travelling to the match by car, said Dr Collins. "If match day travel by car could be replaced by coach travel, there would be 6,500 fewer cars on the road, and an additional 209 coaches, and the environmental impact could be reduced by as much as 24 per cent, the equivalent of 399 football pitches," Dr Collins said.

The ecological footprint of the match could also have been reduced significantly if there had been recycling of waste, Dr Flynn said. This was not done because the local council did not distribute rubbish bins because of security fears.

"Recycling food and drink packaging alone could reduce the footprint of waste by as much as 14 per cent," Dr Flynn said.

The researchers also analysed the ecological footprint of the venue itself. The Millennium Stadium was built using 40,000 tons of concrete and 18,500 tons of steel but its long lifespan and large number of visitors meant that it has a relatively small footprint - an area equivalent of a 10th of a football pitch.

Dr Collins said that assessing the ecological footprint of a public event can help planners to mitigate the environmental impacts. "It's only by having the information that we can do that," she said. "We have suggested for instance the price of the ticket should include the price of travelling by coach or public transport which would encourage people not to use their cars."

Another suggestion is that people could be supported to buy low-footprint products. Eating chicken sandwiches rather than beef burgers for instance would be better for the environment, Dr Collins said.

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