Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Bodø/Glimt: Action Now On and Off the Pitch

Posted on 23 February 2022 by Josh Sim

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At Norwegian football club FK Bodø/Glimt, sustainability is a central theme.

There’s players drinking hot coffee from recyclable cups in the cold mornings during training.

Then there’s the image of the world firmly placed on their home kits. Every game, its presence reminds people of their responsibility to take care of the Earth and its resources.

Coming after the COP26 climate summit held in Glasgow last year, the issue is now at the forefront of all teams.

Most know of the efforts made by Forest Green Rovers, while Tottenham’s Premier League game with Chelsea achieved net-zero carbon emissions last September.

But the majority could learn plenty from Bodø/Glimt. A club in one of the most remotest parts of the world, taking on one of its biggest challenges.

Bodø/Glimt and Action Now

Over the last three years, the club has implemented their self-devised Action Now initiative.

Its goals are to raise awareness about the United Nations’ sustainability goals, and to inspire the local community in Bodø, a town of around 50,000 inhabitants on the Norwegian west coast.

Action Now involves everyone at the club. First-team players, academy youngsters and staff are all willing participants alongside commercial partners and locals.

One of the five pillars it is based on includes greater collaboration with commercial partners to promote sustainable practices.

They also build networks that bring together different corporations to discuss wider issues. For example, the club has previously invited members of the seafood industry to talk about how they could improve their social, environmental and ecological practices.

There is also one which focuses on their kits. Not only are they recyclable, but they additionally highlight a particular UN sustainability goal.

For example, their blue away strip launched in May 2021 was inspired by the ocean and the 14th sustainability goal. Its design asks Norwegians to consider that resources from the sea must be extracted in a more sustainable manner.

 

What Limits Bodø/Glimt From Complete Sustainability

Benedicte Halvorsen works in business development at the club, and says that the response to Action Now has been largely positive. So much so that there’s been interest both within Norway and around the world in their work.

Yet she does concede that it would be unrealistic for a football club to be completely sustainable.

“That’s a realisation you need to make,” she says. “For us, there will be compromises we have to accept, such as our use of air travel, our water consumption and having an artificial pitch [with rubber granules].

“Once you accept these things, that’s when you start to work with these factors. If we need to fly, then it’s all about asking what else we can do once we have accepted that.

“It’s all about having a starting point and working out how we can be better. We need to be able to perform in the best way possible.

“Our local rivals Tromsø are a 14-hour drive away. That’s the reality of how big Norway is and how we need to fly to perform well.

“We could also take the train to play Rosenborg, but it takes ten hours. There’s no way the team could perform in an optimal way if we took the train there.”

The club’s work has taken inspiration from both Forest Green and Sir David Attenborough. Glimt’s CEO sometimes even uses the latter’s COP 26 speech when presenting the initiative.

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Action Now and Bodø/Glimt’s Academy

Another pillar focuses on their academy, with every team, down to the Under-13s, asked to commit to a specific goal for the season.

Some have worked with a local organisation to collect sporting equipment for children who cannot ordinarily afford it. Others have volunteered regularly to clean beaches.

“Helping young people discover their purpose was something I was always passionate about,” says Gregg Broughton, the head of the club’s academy. “While I was initially not aware of the 17 sustainable goals, it fits perfectly with what we are trying to do.”

Broughton describes how in 2019, a team of 15-year-old boys focused on societal equality. In particular, they wanted to focus on how older generations could stay in touch with those younger than them.

It was difficult for the youngsters to initially grasp what linked generations. Then, football emerged as a common interest.

Boys then split into pairs and went to different homes every week throughout the year. Through this, they became more passionate about the need to bond with Bodø’s elders.

He says: “The work done at the old people homes was particularly touching. There was a real human angle that some of the other activities hadn’t got at the time.

“This was what made us feel that the work we were doing with the academy was viable for the long-term.

“Society holds a huge place in people’s hearts here. There’s a concept called dugnad, which Norwegians describe as volunteering, but every part of society expects you to take part.

“We want our players to leave as better people. They’re the people in society we will have to deal with for years to come. One coach here meets with a former player who’s now his bank manager!”

There’s a growing recognition that clubs should focus on preparing young players for the future, particularly if they don’t make it as a professional. Crystal Palace, for example recently announced they are extending their support programme for players released from their academy.

On this topic, Broughton says: “When you look at teams whose academy project has the sole goal of developing players for the first team, it’s not sustainable and won’t be successful. At the academy, you work with 80-90% of players who won’t make it as there’s a limited chance of reaching the first team.

“Football clubs should try to make young people aware of their role in society. It’s really important to get them to work on their sense of self if youth development is going to be a sustainable project.”

The Inspiration of their On-Field Success

The success of Glimt’s Action Now initiative has coincided with their rise on the pitch, with the club winning their second successive Norwegian league title.

They are also impressing in Europe, currently with a 3-1 lead over Celtic in the UEFA Europa Conference League.

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While there’s no direct correlation, the focus on optimal performance is at the forefront for players and staff alike.

Halvorsen says: “Everything is focused on how we perform and how it can be developed further. We take a lot of inspiration from the first team.”

When asked how others in football can be more active on sustainability, she adds: “I think the most important thing is to be unafraid to have a strong viewpoint.

“We are not perfect, and we will make mistakes, but we treat it as a learning experience on how to improve and be better.

“It’s about changing the mindset of the sport.”