Plant Based Football

#Plantbased – You may have seen this hashtag pop up all over social media but what does it actually mean?

The Urban Dictionary (the most official source out there) states:

“A diet consisting primarily of plant foods with few or no animal products. Not to be confused with being vegan, though vegans do eat a 100% plant-based diet.”

Now I know what you’re thinking “Whats this got to do with football?” well, let me explain. This season saw a team promoted to the football league for the first time in their history, Forest Green Rovers – the first vegan football club.

Let us take a brief history lesson about Forest Green:
  • Founded in 1889
  • Non-league until 2017
  • Based in the small town of Nailsworth, currently they are the smallest town to ever host a league club
  • Currently 20th in League Two
  • The club crest throughout the 90’s and early 00’s was heavily based on Barcelona’s
  • Use the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy to determine who to sign
  • Finished two seasons in the relegation zone but survived due to other clubs misfortunes

So what about plant-based? Dale Vince, the owner of the electricity company Ecotricity who sells renewable energy to the national grid, became the majority shareholder at Forest Green in 2010 and a few months later became chairman. Vince is a vegan and wanted to promote this lifestyle through the club.

The first major changes came in 2011, first banning the players from eating red meat and later stopping all red meat from being sold in the stadium. By 2015 the club became fully vegan.

This isn’t just done for the usual preventing animal suffering reasons (although obviously its a great reason for the diet change), it’s becoming increasingly common for elite athletes to adopt a vegan diet when in training. UFC fighter Nate Diaz, the Williams tennis sisters, David Carter formally of the Arizona Cardinals and even the worlds greatest footballer Messi, all take on a near 100% vegan diet when training.

The science is quite obvious when you think about it, a diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans is extremely beneficial to cardiovascular health. Also eating predominately plants makes it very easy to maintain low body fat.

To continue the eco theme the stadium uses organic fertilizer for the grass and even uses solar panels on the roof to power the robotic lawnmower running on GPS coordinates of the pitch.

But what about the fans? How is your standard football fan getting on without burgers and meat pies? Pretty well to be fair, “The Q Pie”, a vegan pie made with Quorn, came in the top 3 at the British Pie Awards last year. That will keep even the FGR Ultras happy.

Not everyone is entirely happy with the way Rovers market themselves as vegan. Some hardcore vegans use the term plant-based to describe someone who “eats plants purely for the nutritional aspect ignoring the animal rights reasons”, many of the above-mentioned athletes go back to eating meat when out of season.

So whats next for Rovers?

Currently sitting above the relegation zone in League Two all being well they will enter a second season in the 92. Plans are currently being submitted for a 5,000 capacity new stadium made entirely of wood.

And who knows, with Man City running away with the Premiership this season we’ll see some top tier teams employ FGRs tricks next year.


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