While Germany’s top soccer league has been praised for its sustainability efforts, the energy crisis has cast a harsh light on the Bundesliga’s large energy footprint.

Germany likes to see itself as Climate protection superpower. At the end of 2021, the Germans’ favorite pastime, football, followed suit and introduced sustainability criteria for clubs participating in the Bundesliga.

The 36 members of the German Football Association, the “German Football League” (DFL), have announced their ambition to anchor sustainability criteria as a prerequisite for league operations.

It was the first football league in the world to do so.

But when the European energy crisis hit and Russia turned off the gas supply, the Bundesliga entered new territory. While some clubs across the country had already started reporting sustainability numbers, tackling Bundesliga clubs’ energy use was a tougher nut to crack.

After a September meeting of the heads of the DFL, all Bundesliga clubs Clubs were advised “urgently”. reduce energy consumption by 15 to 20%.

However, the initiative immediately encountered problems.

“The very different conditions at the individual locations of the Bundesliga must be taken into account,” warned the league bosses, referring to differences in the ownership of the stadiums and their energy sources.

“In order to initiate an additional opportunity for the cross-location exchange of facts, best practices and challenges against this background, the DFL will organize regular joint meetings with the clubs on this topic,” says a message to the clubs.

Have Germany’s clubs actually started to save energy half a year after this report?

Because the challenge is great: The stadiums of the Bundesliga soccer club consumed around 211,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2022 – energy that could alternatively supply around 66,000 households with electricity.

Football is energy intensive: heating the pitch, powering the floodlights and building systems, heating the open stadium and serving the fans.

The leader in terms of energy requirements is Bayern Munich, Germany’s perennial favorite at the top of the Bundesliga table. The operation of the club’s Allianz Arena requires more than 20 million kWh, according to the clubs.

Schalke 04 from Gelsenkirchen took second place. Your stadium operation in the Veltins Arena requires more than 17 million kWh.

Third place goes to VfB Stuttgart. The operation of the club stadium consumes 15.5 million kWh per year. However, the club followed the call from the DFL management to save energy. Turn down their undersoil heaters and lights.

Save energy?

Given the energy footprint of top-flight German football, saving energy should be at the heart of clubs’ efforts to both meet their climate targets – many clubs are aiming for climate neutrality by 2030 – and do their part to ensure society is called upon to save energy.

Of the 18 clubs in the Bundesliga, six have told EURACTIV that they have implemented the DFL energy-saving mandate in some way. Club Werder Bremen “intends to comply with the DFL recommendation,” said a spokesman.

Some, like FC Freiburg, whose stadium was completed in 2021, are struggling to achieve the further energy savings needed. “Our venue was designed with a strong focus on energy efficiency and sustainability,” said a spokesman.

Others, like Union Berlin, unintentionally reduce their energy consumption for financial reasons. “An energy saving recommendation from the DFL is not necessary for this,” emphasized a spokesman.

Bayern Munich did not respond to EURACTIV’s request for comment.

Solar panels: a fig leaf?

German football clubs tend to do one measure tractor are their solar panels. Obtaining part of their electricity from solar panels is a central concern of the sustainability communication of clubs like FC Freiburg, which has the largest solar panel capacity in the league.

Apart from Freiburg, however, the clubs’ solar performance pales in comparison to their constant thirst for energy.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon, Nathalie Weatherald and Zoran Radosavljevic]

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