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Bundesliga: Schalke leading way in sustainability

Jörg Strohschein
March 28, 2023

Sustainability is an ongoing topic for Bundesliga clubs. Schalke are looking to forge their own path on the matter and are pooling the knowledge of various participants in a new scheme.

A Schalke badge sits in front of a training complex
Schalke may not be top of the Bundesliga but they are winning by other measuresImage: Guido Kirchner/dpa/picture alliance

Plans for the new wells are already in place and soon the Schalke offices, football teams and spectators will all be supplied with water from the club grounds. This is just one of several ecological measures the club has earmarked for the future in its "Sustainability Strategy for a Climate Neutral Schalke" plan.

"Above all, we want to assume social responsibility in our region. We see that as our duty," Schalke's CEO Bernd Schröder told DW during the presentation of the strategy.

To this end, Schalke have launched their own initiative, which is primarily regionally based and has the purpose of pooling knowledge on the subject of sustainability. The "Zukunftsschmiede 04" is a network that currently consists of eleven participating parties, from medium-sized companies to those listed on the German Stock Exchange. They also include the RAG Foundation, a group of digital experts and municipal businesses from the region, who benefit from each other's knowhow and ideas when it comes to making the club more sustainable.

Bernd Schröder talks to a crowdddd
Schalke CEO Bernd Schröder has big aims for the club away from the pitchImage: Dennis Ewert/RHR-FOTO/picture alliance

The issue of sustainability and the various questions associated with it will remain of the utmost importance: Can spectator matchday travel be made as efficient and climate-neutral as possible? How can charging stations for e-bikes be installed? Where can solar panels be installed on the club grounds? How can the amount of waste generated on match days be reduced?

Sustainability and environmental strategy

Sustainability and environmental protection are social issues that have long since occupied Bundesliga clubs. In 2022, the German Football League Association (DFL) committed itself to gradually incorporating a sustainability guideline into the licensing regulations for the 36 clubs from Germany's top two divisions that would take ecological, economic and social aspects into account. Starting in the 2023/24 season, clubs that do not comply with the sustainability concept will no longer be able to obtain an operating license.

In the future, clubs will be required to provide evidence of an environmental and sustainability strategy. Recently, all clubs have had to submit information on their current status when it comes to water consumption, wastewater production and energy consumption, as well as an analysis of mobility and traffic. The catalogue drawn up by the DFL for this purpose comprises of around 300 different criteria.

New opportunity for clubs

"The clubs have long been interested in the topic of sustainability. Sometimes regulatory pressure is needed to implement something," Stefan Ludwig, head of the "Sports Business Group" at auditing and consulting firm Deloitte, told DW. He added that the league's requirements offer clubs new opportunities to make further positive changes.

Solar panels at the Schalke stadium
Solar panels are par for the course in GelsenkirchenImage: Ferdinand Ostrop/dpa/picture-alliance

"It's clear to many clubs that it's not just an obligation, but also an opportunity to cut costs. Or to make themselves attractive to sponsors who have previously stayed away from professional sports." This is also an advantage in terms of existing partnerships, for example with companies on the stock market, who have been obliged for some time to meet sustainability criteria and pass these on to their partners and service providers, says Ludwig.

A better place for successors

At Schalke, the club wants to take action beyond the adopted measures with a specially launched initiative. The main considerations, according to the club, are "ecological transformation and the club's corporate responsibility." In addition to its own efforts, Schalke also wants to act as a "platform for networks and companies" for this in the future.

"We are not promising heaven and earth, but want to make sustainability more understandable for all members and fans," Sebastian Buntkirchen, director of fan affairs and sustainability at the Bundesliga club, told DW. For example, the Royal Blues have maintained its own six-person sustainability department for just over a year. "I once learned that you should leave a place in better condition than you found it. That's our goal," says Schröder.

This article was translated from German

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