​In what has been (at best) a strange year, you might feel like the world is in a state of crisis and that all is doomed... but fear not, Vanarama National League side Forest Green Rovers are giving everyone a reason to feel good about the world (or at least football) again.


The fifth-tier, Nailsworth-based club are laying claim to the title of world football's most-sustainable club and are setting down the gauntlet for others in the sport to follow.


Green Takeover

In 2010, the longest-serving National League side were the subject of a takeover from green energy tycoon Dale Vince. The self-made millionaire amassed his wealth through renewable energy company 'Ecotricity' - whose name now adorns the vibrant green kit of FGR.

Forest Green v Cardiff City - Pre Season Friendly

The 'conference Abramovich', who has a reported net worth of over £100m, has since embarked on a personal mission to revolutionise the way things are done in the sport, with regards to ethical sustainability.


Vegan

Shortly after his takeover in 2011, Vince banned the use of all red meat products within the stadium, to the initial bemusement of the average punter. The initiative was followed three years later by the world's first vegan football match against Lincoln City, in which all animal products were taken off the stadium menu for World Vegan Day


The event was hailed by influential voices from beyond football, most notably Sir Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary.


"It’s great to hear how a football club took the positive environmental action of going meat free, and how this has been such a success", McCartney said in a statement, published in the ​Stroud News and Journal. 


Sadly, the former Beatle has yet to be spotted queueing up for his half time grub at the New Lawn stadium. 

Superbowl XXXIX Halftime Press Conference

A permanent switch to veganism for fans and players alike came in 2015 and the club has never looked back.


“It’s a surprisingly small step from vegetarian to vegan; it sounds much harder than it is. A lot of vegetarian foods are actually vegan already. Our very popular veggie burger, for example, is actually vegan." Vince told the Stroud News and Journal.


“The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course: food sales this season are 84% higher than three years ago when we began this journey.”

Forest Green Rovers v Grimsby Town - Vanarama Football Conference League: Play Off Final

Indeed, any fears of fans too 'hangry' to cheer on their team were quickly assuaged. Forest Green were awarded 'Menu of the Year' by the The Sport and Leisure Catering Magazine this year, thanks to a menu that includes both matchday classics like pie and chips, as well as more exotic fare including Mexican fajitas, vegan pizza and sweet potato burgers. 


There's even the possibility of celebrating, or drowning your sorrows (delete as appropriate) with vegan beer and cider at the New Lawn.

Sustainability Stadium

Other headline-grabbing, eco-initiatives at the Cotswold club include; plans to design an organic pitch, a solar-powered stadium and founding the Sustainability in Sport programme, which was formed in partnership with Manchester United legend Gary Neville no less.


Most recently, ​FGR announced the winning design for their new home - a 5,000 seater all-wood stadium, designed as part of a new £100m 'eco park', to the principles of the club and its chairman.


The Green Army are coming

Vince, as reported on ​IOG, also revealed how other top teams have been in touch to discuss how they too can 'green up'.


“We’ve been in conversations with Liverpool FC about electricity supply,” Vince said. 


“In return they have helped us develop a capability in-house to analyse players and match day stats to use in recruitment and performance analysis, so it’s a bit of a two-way street." 

Forest Green Rovers v Grimsby Town - Vanarama Football Conference League: Play Off Final

Back on the (organic) pitch, the football has not suffered. The Green Army currently sit top of their league, nine points clear of the play-offs (the stage at which they fell to Grimsby last season).


Matching their chairman's lofty ambitions of League One may take time, but attaining football league status could be just a few months away and will only attract further attention to their worthy cause.