The Ball at the Sport Positive Summit 2023

Credit: Sport Positive

The Ball was lucky enough to be invited again to this year’s Sport Positive Summit in London. This is a conference where different stake holders from the sport industry come together to find ways to make sport more sustainable and how sport can help in our society’s climate action efforts. For instance, representatives from football clubs, the F1 cosmos and well as sport presenters and NGOs like us, Spirit of Football, participated.

Two members from Spirit of Football, Joaquin and Iris, who were both The Ball carriers during the 2023 The Ball journey, were invited to present experiences and learnings from this year’s journey during the session “How are NGOs taking climate action” on October 3rd.

We talked about how sport is brings people together, and should bring us together in our efforts in sustainability, too. We shared stories from our journey, like that from Kiribati, a group of atolls doomed to be under water in the next 50 years. Or from our kick-off in London in July last year, where we kicked off this journey on a dry and yellow football field in Battersea Park. But we also shared that we met various sustainability initiatives on The Ball’s journey, such as Hara Makers, a social enterprise turning plastic into bags and more. Or Haley Carter, who pledged to keep the stadiums in her club, Orlando Pride, paper-free, which has saved huge amounts of papers and resources (see blog entry here).

We had met our main financial supporter of The Ball 2023, the Swedish Postcode Foundation (SPF), at the Sport Positive Summit 2021 and so were able to share during the summit in 2023, how the Sport Positive Summit helped to make the connection between Spirit of Football and SPF and made the 2023 journey possible.

See the full presentation and panel here:

During the summit, we also met many like-minded people fighting to make sport more sustainable. Meet some of these people here and read what their pledges were when they signed The Ball:

First up, Claire Poole is the CEO and Founder of Sport Positive and the lead organizer of the Sport Positive Summit. She an dher organisation managed to build up a so well put together event, involving so many stake holders and people passionate about climate action, with which they are doing their part to raise awareness about climate change and iniate serious sustainability actions.

My pledge is to make this event certified sustainble next year.

Emanuel Boscardin, is a Programme Officer at Sports for Nature at IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), striving to make sport more sustainble – in his professional life but also in his private life, looking to make his favourite football club more sustainable. He was inspired by The Ball’s story and feels encouraged to do even more now.

A powerful moment, to have this ball in my hands. Very excited to have met the team of Spirit of Football. One Ball, One World – what a great message it is. My Name is Emanuel, I work for Sports for Nature, an environment organisation. We work with many many sports, but of course the power of football is a passion I have myself and a passion we have in the organisation. So very clearly I pledge to make sure that we push on positive messaging and improvement of the state of the world, through football, both in my professional but also my personal life, as a football die hard fan. So FC Basel, it’s my team, I’m coming for you, I want your support in One Ball, One World!

Etienne Scott is a Olympic Gold Medalist in Kayak at London 2012 and co-founder of Champions for Earth. He joined The Ball kick-off in July 2022 in London and is passionate about serious climate action. During one of the summits panels, he was asked about fossil fuel sponsorships in sport. His input was: “It is difficult, understandably, to get individual athletes to call out fossil fuel companies from within. We need to let athletes know about the ‘1,000 ton rule’, which states that for every 1,000 tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, one person in the world dies. The high profile protests against the Total Energy sponsorship of the 2023 Rugby World Cup was important.”

I was one of the first people to sign this ball when it got sent on its journey from Battersea Park here in London. And now it’s back. It’s been all around the world. It’s incredible to see how many signatures – I can’t even imagine how many people have interacted with this ball and pledged something that hopefully made a difference in their lives and their community and contribute positively in this situation. And I think it’s just a sign of the power of sport that we can use just something as simple as a ball to start really important conversations and get people to actually take action. And I think this whole project has been super amazing and yeah, who knows what’s next, you know? We all know the energy is rising, the power is rising in ordinary people are realising that this is something they have to get involved in and I believe that sport, football in particular, but all sports, have a role to play. So let’s see what’s next for this ball and what’s next for sport and our beautiful planet.

Diana Dehm is the Director for Sustainability, Americas at Sustainable Business Partnerships, LLC. She cherished the chance to sign The Ball and is enthusiastic about bringing the world forward in terms of sustainability.

My pledge is to push as hard as I can to figure out how to pull carbon out of the air – with a collective group of people. And this ball is the start of it right now. And I’m gonna own this and I’m not gonna give up.

Craig Wilson, Chief Executive of Big Hearts, the charity of Heart of Midlothian Football Club, caught our presentation and recognized his friend Katie Rood in our The Ball video, who plays for the Hearts Women’s team.

My pledge is to take all of my learnings and not be scared of sustainability and think of the things we can do locally to make a big difference. One Ball, One World.

Linda Gancitano was part of the very first US Women’s National Soccer Team. Her initiatve, the How low can you go?-challenge, empowers youth reduce their schools’ carbon footprint.

Innes Fitzgerald is a British track and field athlete and cross country runner from Devon, England. She set a new under-17 record for 3,000 metres, and in December 2022 finished fourth in the under-20s European Cross Country Championships in Turin. To avoid flying to the competition she took a 20-hour coach and train journey from Exeter to Italy.

In January 2023, Innes turned down the opportunity to compete at the 2023 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia because of concerns she holds about contributing to climate change. In a letter to UK Athletics she wrote that “The reality of the travel fills me with deep concern”, adding that “I was just nine when the COP21 Paris Climate agreement was signed. Now, eight years on, and global emissions have been steadily increasing, sending us on a path to climate catastrophe. Turning this around is only possible through transformational change from collective and personal action.” In it’s coverage of this, The Times called Innes “The Greta Thunberg of Sport.”

I’ve taken many decisions not fly to running championships due to my concerns for the environment. And I want to pledge to continue to raise as much awareness within the running community about the climate crisis.

With a background in aerospace engineering, three world records in cycling, and a triathlon championship title, Kate Strong is currently doing Climate Cycle – a more than 3,000 mile, 90 day cycle on a hand-made bamboo bike across the length and breadth of mainland Britain, visiting sustainability projects, to raise awareness of the climate crisis. Find out more and support here:

I just cycled 3,500 miles around mainland Britain on a handmade bamboo bike, visiting 30 sustainbility projects and schools. One Ball, One World! My pledge is to stay homeless for the rest of the year, live in different communities, find out how I can support them and live off-grid.

Sofi Armenakian is the head of sustainability of the Atlanta Hawks and the State Farm Arena and gave an impressive look into how both are working towards beiing more sustainable as a sports club and an event venue.

I pledge to continue encouraging others to operate zero waste, while we learn to do it even better.

Chris Broadbent is the founder and CEO of Planet Earth Games Trust. He was also part of the panel “How are NGOs taking climate action” during the Sport Positive Summit.

I pledge to go vegan by 2024.

Gary Devereaux is the managing director of the UK-based environmental, engineering and technical services group.

My pledge is that I want my children to be aware, more aware of the challenges that we face today by the time that they’re my age. OneBall, One World!

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