A new UEFA Champions League format is on the horizon, but what implications does it have for climate change?

With the Immersed Festival beginning on Thursday, February 29, with a climate change-themed conference at USW’s atrium campus in Cardiff, MATT PRIEST takes a look at the climate implications of the new Champions League structure

In 2024-2025 UEFA will begin a new format for their continental competitions, with the showpiece Champions League having the greatest shift.

Instead of eight groups of four teams there will be a round-robin, with each team playing eight group games, four at home and four away. As such, each team will play at least two more games than they would have done in the previous format.

In the knockout phase, the teams which finished between 9th and 16th will be seeded in the knockout phase play-off draw, meaning they will face a team placed 17th to 24th – with, in principle, the return leg at home.

The eight clubs which prevail in the knockout phase play-offs will then progress to the round of 16, where they will each face one of the top-eight finishers, who will be seeded in the round of 16.

This means there will be 177 extra games across all three of UEFA’s competitions.

So what do these extra games mean for the climate?

These extra games will account for 500 million more air miles than in previous years. This excess in air miles means that teams will travel enough to go to the moon and back an extra 1,106 times than in 2023-2024.

In total teams would fly enough for 4,000 round trips to the moon and back letting off half a million tonnes of greenhouse gases which cause global warming.

Football’s carbon footprint

No other sport has a higher carbon footprint than football, with fans travelling regularly in such large numbers it means that no sport damages the environment like football does.

In the Premier League alone, teams have to travel 51,798 miles in the 2023-2024 season. This is enough miles to fly round the circumference of the earth twice, and that is only one league.

The total miles football fans and teams travel per season is extortionate and the frequency they travel for away days does not help.

What can UEFA do to combat these figures?

Many ideas have been floated on how to combat football’s carbon footprint, but what can teams and fans actually do to help?

Although it will mean travelling takes longer, shifting to train journeys would help the environment massively. If the 3.36 million annual flights from Barcelona to London were swapped to train journeys it would save 461,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

UEFA have promised to halve net emissions by 2030 and achieve net-0 by 2040. They have also encouraged fans to travel by train and car share to the EURO’s in Germany this summer.

Overall, those who are most effected in football by climate change are the lower level and grassroots clubs who have to cancel and postpone fixtures due to heavy rain and extreme weather events leaving their pitches and playing grounds unusable.

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