Business Essentials: 'Can we score a goal against costs and be champions for the environment?'

Barnsley Football Club is looking for bright ideas to improve its energy efficiency, finds Kate Hilpern
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It's a new sort of Barnsley chop: the costs that have to be cut to keep a football club on its feet and improve value-for-money for supporters. And like a growing number of businesses, Barnsley FC is homing in on energy efficiency. "We have been suffering from financial problems to the extent that, in the past four or five years, there has been a lot of uncertainty over the club," admits the general manager, Don Rowing.

"Like many football clubs, we've overspent. We've realised we need to treat it more like a business and make savings wherever possible."

Other areas of expenditure under scrutiny by the club range from the use of mobile phones and stationery, right through to players' wages. Cutting the bills for gas and electricity is particularly important, however. "It's not just a financial issue," says Mr Rowing. "From an ethical point of view, we are also interested in doing something to help the environment. I believe we owe it to each other to try and help keep carbon emissions down."

Founded in 1887, the League One club today boasts a turnover in the region of £3.5m and employs a core staff of 80, with an additional couple of hundred employees on matchdays at its Oakwell ground in South Yorkshire. Given that football is a winter sport, the club's heating bills constitute a large part of its energy spend, alongside lighting and kitchen use. Mr Rowing says: "On a matchday, the pitch has to be well lit and every stand has to have lights, alongside every other area of the grounds. That's a lot of electricity."

He adds: "Then there are the catering outlets, where we have ovens going at full capacity. We have our own restaurant too, with a kitchen whose ovens and other equipment are using a lot of energy." It all adds up, he says, to bills of around £85,000 a year.

Measures that Barnsley FC has already looked into include checking out the best deals every year. "We really shop around when it comes to the energy providers," says Mr Rowing. "We regularly look for new contracts that can offer us a better rate. It's something we've always done and will continue to do."

In addition, he has encouraged employees to do their bit. "We ask them to turn off lights when they leave a room and when an area is not being used. We also ask them to be careful about the use of the timer when it comes to heating and water. In addition, we get them to turn down the heating as soon as the weather improves, alongside all the basic things you would hope they do at home.

"But we would like some further advice on how we can reduce our energy consumption, without undermining what we as a football club are trying to achieve."


Dr Garry Felgate, director of business delivery, The Carbon Trust

"Barnsley Football Club is spot-on in identifying the commercial benefits of improving its energy efficiency. The Carbon Trust helps organisations cut their energy use, and we know that bill savings of up to 20 per cent can be made through low- or no-cost measures.

"Mr Rowing has made a good start: by turning the heating down by just one degree after the winter season, staff at Barnsley can save up to 10 per cent on their annual heating bill.

"But the club may now need to invest to save more - and we can help. For example, energy-efficient light bulbs use 75 per cent less electricity than standard models, provide the same amount of light and last up to 10 times longer.

"We can offer loans to eligible businesses of up to £100,000 for energy-efficient equipment like lighting or boilers if annual savings of over £1,000 can be made.

"For more advice, contact our free helpline on 0800 085 2005."

Steve Barber, co-director, Energy Management Solutions

"Mr Rowing has already made some good moves from an environmental and cost perspective. He should now make use of government funding to have an independent expert look at the ways in which Barnsley uses electricity and gas, to achieve further reductions in consumption. The challenge is made harder due to the premises being used part time, which will lengthen paybacks on investment.

"Training is available to help club staff become more energy aware - and their 'buy-in' to your energy objectives is essential.

"Energy costs look set to rise at a rate well in excess of inflation. And it is no longer possible to cut these costs by finding cheaper suppliers; you must use less.

"Given that the club has already put in place some effective no-cost measures, getting expert advice is the next step in saving more money.

"Get that energy survey completed, follow the practical and cost-effective recommendations, be sure to monitor the results and fully involve your employees."

Tricia Henton, director of environmental protection, the Environment Agency

"It's good to see that Mr Rowing is already taking a proactive approach to saving energy, by turning off lights and using timers to heat water. He could also make sure he is using energy-saving light bulbs as, over the year, it would take 13 trees to absorb the 40kg of carbon dioxide he would have emitted into the air.

"Saving water will also save money, so encourage showers instead of the team bath and fit waterless urinals - each one could save over £1,000 a year. Harvest rainwater to water the pitch as the average garden sprinkler uses 1,000 litres an hour.

"He could look at the amount and types of waste the club produces, and encourage the use of recycling bins for cans and paper. Why not enthuse your staff and supporters by appointing an 'Environmental Champion' to reinforce these important messages?"