Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper defends flying to Blackpool for FA Cup tie

Blackpool scoring a goal against Nottingham Forest
Nottingham Forest, who earned promotion to the Premier League last season, were well beaten by Championship side Blackpool

Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper has defended his club after they were criticized for flying to and from Blackpool for Saturday’s FA Cup tie.

The club took the 20-minute flight to Lancashire, a journey of around 135 miles, to avoid a road trip of about two hours 45 minutes.

Forest were knocked out of the FA Cuplosing the match against the Championship strugglers 4-1.

“I think it’s pretty normal,” Cooper said on Monday.

“Whether it is right or wrong, I think it is pretty normal for a team, in the Premier League particularly, and for a lot of Championship teams, to fly distances like that.

“It’s probably not just a question for Nottingham Forest. It is probably a question for the whole of the Premier League.

“We are no outliers here. In fact, because of where we are situated in the country, we probably fly less than most.”

In November 2021, Manchester United were criticized for flying to Leicester for a Premier League match, a journey of around 100 miles.

Forest recently extended an agreement with energy company E.on external-linkto “raise awareness of the climate crisis” and “seek to play their part in a greener and more sustainable energy future”.

They also agreed to a charity shirt sponsorship deal with UNHCRexternal-linkthe UN Refugee Agency, last month. The UNHCR websiteexternal-link details how climate change could negatively impact the lives of refugees and displaced people.

The Fly Green Alliance, which specializes in sustainable mobility and sports, says there is “never a need to fly domestically in a small country”.

“We are under a lot of pressure globally to reduce carbon especially from travel,” they said in a statement.

“As athletes and Premier League clubs have such high profiles they can have a really strong role in climate topics.

“We don’t think there is ever a need to take a flight domestically in a small country.”

Flights produce greenhouse gases – mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) – from burning fuel. These contribute to global warming.

Emissions per kilometer traveled are known to be significantly worse than any other form of transport, with short-haul flights the worst emitters, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Campaign for Better Transport has previously called for the UK government to ban domestic flightsexternal-link if the journey could be done by train in less than five hours.

In a statement, the Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust said: “Sustainability is a topic we have raised with the club in the past via q&a sessions.

“The club recently shared details of an energy audit of its facilities and we’d be happy to continue the dialogue on how other aspects of the club could become more sustainable – including travel arrangements.”

Nottingham Forest and the Premier League have been contacted for comment.


Dave Lockwood, BBC Sport head of editorial sustainability

Football teams flying for domestic games is not only a real problem for football’s attempts to reduce its emissions, it also undermines the sport, teams’ and players’ ability to lead change and be advocates for environmental action.

Football players and clubs are some of the biggest influencers on the planet, what they say and do matters and can shape opinion.

Nottingham Forest are in discussions about hosting a “Green Game” for the Green Football Weekend, which is built around fan actions. They will be asking fans to make sacrifices and cut their emissions. The FA Cup flight, at best, undermines the positive messaging.

But Forest are not alone and that’s important to highlight – the majority of Premier League clubs have the same approach to travel.

“Footballing factors” are often cited as the reason. Should a competitive edge in a football game be used as an excuse for causing damage to the environment? This is perhaps not a question for clubs but for the authorities – if they are serious about reducing the games emissions they need to begin to address this issue.

That seems a long way off, more than 12 months after signing up to the UN Race to Zero in November 2021 the Premier League are yet to publish a sustainability strategy which one might expect to address these domestic flights, and the lack of transparency or accountability around them.

For now though clubs are free to promote a green agenda and champion environmental sustainability, while continuing to make significant environmentally damaging decisions which take place behind the scenes and with little to no scrutiny.

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