Football for the planet?

Pictures: Unsplash

What are the environmental impacts of a mega sporting event of the scale of FIFA World Cup? These impacts are often in the shadow of economic and political impacts. That is why I wanted to examine in my bachelor thesis what kind of impacts the 2014 FIFA World Cup had on the environment. I also wanted to find out how the sustainability goals for the tournament were reached.

Sustainable actions

The 2014 World Cup was branded as the “green cup” and for the first time Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) made a sustainability strategy for the tournament. Before the cup, FIFA publishes a sustainability strategy where they highlight the goals and actions, they are going to take to achieve maximum sustainability. ¹

FIFA’s environmental programme “Football for the Planet” is used to represent the commitment they have on reducing the impacts their operations have on the environment. It is also used as a way to raise awareness on environmental issues. ²

After the cup, a comprehensive sustainability report is released, where FIFA explains how they have succeeded in their goals.

Wins for the environment

FIFA took different actions in their attempt to maximise the sustainability in Brazil.

One of the actions taken was promoting sustainability and recycling in the stadiums. They used their mascot, Fuleco, to promote recycling inside and outside the stadiums. Fuleco was also a way to appeal to the younger audience and get them to be more sustainable as well. ²

Together with experts they proposed a framework to calculate the carbon footprint of the tournament. The framework was based on past experience and existing concepts. ²

Code of Conduct and Sustainability was developed, where companies committed to series of requirements. These included prohibition of child and slave labour, sustainable waste and carbon emissions management. With these regulations FIFA made sure that the companies related to the cup were operated correctly. ²

Picture: Unsplash

Sustainability defeats

But how green was the “green cup” actually?

Even though FIFA made different actions to guarantee sustainability before and during the cup, their actions were still heavily criticised by the public. The criticism they faced include not taking enough actions to leave a positive legacy in Brazil and not understanding the wider impacts the tournament had. People also did not like the fact that FIFA used the Brazilian three-banded armadillo as an inspiration for their mascot, Fuleco. The armadillo is endangered, but FIFA did not help the species with the money made from the mascot. ³ It would have been desirable from the organisers to help with the preservation of the armadillo, as they recognised the importance of biodiversity in their report.

Brazilians were not thrilled with the money being used to renovate and built new stadiums, while the locals did not have access to a proper health care. Residents were also evicted from their homes because new infrastructure was built on that area in preparation for the cup.⁴ Huge issues like these are the reason locals did not want Brazil to be the host country and they were unhappy with their government’s actions. Football should not be more important than the well-being of humans, no matter how much money is made from it.    

Another problem were the stadiums used to host the games. After the cup ended and all the participants went back home, Brazil was left with at least six empty stadiums, with no future use. The stadiums are now used as a parking lots for busses, if even that. These stadiums are one of the problems the cup caused and there is no use for them. Because of that it is justifiable to describe them as waste. Too often issues like this are left unnoticed and not considered from the perspective of the environment.


Even if long-term sustainability was absent, and the legacy of the cup was not as positive as organisers had hoped, it is possible that the cup still had an impact on sustainability through developments for the World Cups in the future. It was the first time a sustainability strategy was developed, its wins and realisations from defeats will shape the tournaments to come. Not all impacts were negative. The infrastructure was improved, emissions were cut down and estimated recycling percent was crossed by 39 %. ²

“We are very much aware that making the FIFA World Cup more sustainable is a huge task with public expectations that we are not always able to meet. An event of such scale has tremendous impacts on a host country, both negative and positive.”

said Federico Addiechi, the head of FIFA’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Department ²

The 2014 FIFA World Cup had positive and negative environmental impacts, and all of these can help shape the future of sustainability in football.

Jenni Numminen


Spanne, A. (2014). Brazil World Cup Fails to Score Environmental Goals. Scientific American. Haettu 25.5.2021 osoitteesta

FIFA. Sustainability Report. Haettu 24.5.2021 osoitteesta

Jose, S. (2014). FIFA World Cup 2014: environmental friend or foe? The Cabot Institute for the Environment –blogiteksti. Haettu 19.4.2020 osoitteesta

Business Worldwide. (2014). BRAZIL- Life after the World Cup. Haettu 24.5.2021 osoitteesta


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