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Club in Focus - Athletic Club United

Athletic Club United introduce innovative way to implement club discipline by fining their players in trees

Athletic Club United have become the first club in the world to issue tree planting fines, after teaming up with Play It Green.

In a bid to maintain discipline and help fight climate change, Athletic Club United, who play their football in the Southend and Basildon Sunday League, are issuing their captains fines in a unique and innovative way. Should a player commit an offence then they have to plant a tree. For example, 20 trees should a player receive a yellow card, 5 trees for arriving with the incorrect kit, and 5 trees should players argue with the referee.

Play It Green guarantees each tree is planted and provide the platform that makes it a simple process for the player. Each one pound payment planting two trees and passing on ten pence to each member’s selected good cause. Through the same service, the team's football manager and club committee receive weekly education on sustainability and support from Play It Green in lowering their personal and organisation’s carbon footprint. 

Daniel Gray, Chairperson, of AC United said “Sustainability has always been one of our core values and a lot of the credit has to go to one of our longest-serving players Dean Barker for embedding that into our culture. As a group, we recognise that football can be so much more than just a game. It can be a catalyst and a force for social good, for justice, and for helping to give something back to our communities and our planet that has given us so much.

“Whilst football is great personally for physical and mental health, we know it isn’t helping the planet. Every player, official, and fan travelling to a game or training session will be creating greenhouse gas emissions. We recognise we are creating a carbon footprint and impact on the environment so wanted to do something to rectify and repair that.

“We like to play creative and fun football and these ideals are shaping our ideas in how we can plant as many trees as possible. For example, we have pledges from players that when we first keep a clean sheet, we’ll plant 400 trees to mark the occasion. This may take some time as we lost 14-0 and 9-1 in our opening games of the season but it will come. 

“The tree planting fines allow us to have some fun and a few fines were issued the day we lost 14-0, so it wasn’t all bad news. Dan Stevens' unfortunate own goal meant five more trees, and collectively 83 trees got planted because of everything that went wrong that day.

“Our captain, Harrison Morris, is fully bought into the sustainable ethos of the club. Harrison has promised to plant 10 trees for every win and introduced the list of ‘captains fines’ so players can also contribute. Many of us are parents and care about our children's future. Climate change is the big issue of our time and it is important we take action to make a difference. To be able to tell our kids that we did our best while we had a chance”.

Chris Thair, CEO of Play It Green said “We’re delighted our platform and education is driving innovation within sport. Congratulations to AC United for their blue-sky thinking. I believe fining players by getting them to plant trees is simply genius and will be adopted by other teams. We’re happy our platform makes it a quick and easy process for the club and the player. 

“Our entire business model is based upon our 3-step solution to climate change. Reducing carbon footprints of people and businesses. Repairing the planet through reforestation and finally regiving funds to people and causes most in need. We take a rounded approach to make the best impact.

“When we designed the site we wanted to give members the opportunity to set up additional pages that would create more impact. Similar to a charity giving page but for the benefit of both the planet and society. Members have set up extra pages for events, rewarding customers, in memory of a loved one but never as a captain's fines page. I love the fun impactful innovation this has brought to sport and congratulations to AC United for being the first in the world to think of it.”

Speaking about AC United's initiative, Nick Emery, Essex County FA Head of Development and Investment, said "This is an innovative way of a grassroots football club playing their part towards a greener environment. Grassroots clubs and organisations are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and introducing measures to reduce it."

Play It Green is a subscription service and platform that helps people, businesses and organisations to be greener and more impactful. Their trees are currently planted in Madagascar, supporting local employment and the permanent reforestation of the country. Ten percent of all revenue from a member goes to their selected good cause. To learn more about Play It Green, please click below. 

Play It Green

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