Climate neutral Rugby…

There is a lot of discussion, how to ‘fight’ climateheating. Especially now, with massive investments in the economy. But what is clear, is that every sector has to make its contribution, to become carbon emissions free. Every sector? Yes. We were sitting together with some old rugby friends recently: So also rugby? Uhh, yes, even Rugby….
And off went the discussion.

It became a hectic meeting, with some unbelief in the beginning. What can a rugby club do about limiting climate change..? “Rugby is rugby, played by men with balls, what can you do about climate?” someone asked. “We run around on a lawn, that’s all …”

It took some effort to convince the men (!). But take something as simple as those balls … “Playing with plastic balls, that’s something for sissies, besides, with all that plastic in the ocean, that’s not really veter-bal-rugbyresponsible.” This was something the men could understand and agree on: Back to ‘biobased balls’, the real ones, the leather balls with lace. Which also feels much more natural by the way. Its the balls we all started our career with… And the balls will be endlessly repaired and recycled, of course.

This conclusion made the debate progress. We agreed that trying to score, when the ball is pushed over the back line, would not in itself have a climate effect. Scoring Tries does not cause CO2 emissions, ergo the slogan was born: “Make Tries, Not Emissions”. Our own version rugby-vof the ‘Make Love, Not War’ slogan, we all remember from our youth …

Kicking the ball for goal, is an issue for improvement of course: Those posts are usually made of steel or worse, of aluminum, ergo huge raw material and energy waste. Those posts may as well be bio-based. And even better, not from poles of cut and dead trees, but from upright growing trees, poplars, or pines. This way they even capture and store CO2! Rugby even can have a positive effect on emissions. Branches of course stripped on the inside of the posts. Nobody actually objected to that. “Why didn’t we come up this earlier? “

So we even can continue to hold the annual Barbecue, with  the branches cut off from the posts,” someone exclaimed enthusiastically. So CO2 neutral BBQ. Now we were getting somewhere, the group was getting more enthusiastic.
Next item on the agenda: the clubhouse. That costs a lot of energy, and causes emissions, just like other buildings, it must of course become a 0-energy clubhouse. But how are we going to do that? The construction world is making plans for 0 energy houses, but they cost a lot of money and materials. As a simple rugby club, we cannot afford that, nor the money, nor the materials. So what to do? A few beers away we found a way out: The clubhouse was to become a gym, with bar stools as energy generating hometrainers . We would then start training there, heating the room and already saving some energy for the later shower and the beer pump. Not even such a crazy idea, after all, a Belgian has already designed the ‘human powered office’…[1] Three birds with one stone!

Traveling to away games is a difficult point. “But that travel will automatically decrease if the Netherlands is halved!” one cried. How that, explain!” half the room called out, “Well, we’re not going to stop climate change, so half of the Netherlands will be flooded. That saves a lot of travel to far away matches! ” Ah, half of the problem already solved ….

“Wait a minute”, another one, still clear of mind, shouted, “but where are all those people going then? If they come here, we will get twice as many members….! ” Well, we will see how to deal with that later, at least the treasurer would be happy.
But the most difficult point was yet to come, not for nothing saved for last in the discussion: the field. Isn’t it immoral to claim half a hectare of land just to play on it for fun for a few hours a week …? Land is a scarce good, (“they don’t make it anymore”, Mark Twain already concluded) and we need every m2 to contribute to our needs for energy, raw materials and food ….I brought forward. “Certainly covered full of solar panels,” shouted one, “then we might as well forget rugby at all …”

We would have income again” replied the treasurer, who looked happier by the minute…

Well, of course its not the intention to abolish rugby. Then we might as well eliminate ourselves, all problems solved. So how do we combine things, make contributions from the land and be able continue to play rugby …?

I took them with me into a line of thought: We all want rugby to become even more popular, as a sport there is nothing wrong with it, of course, on the contrary, it is the most beautiful sport  there is.

But suppose that in Asia all countries start playing rugby, thousands of clubs are added, what then?

I paused for a moment: Well, they will start cultivating fields, and just like for soy or palm oil, they will cut down forests again …. Forest cut down for lawns that are hardly used, that is not the intention, is it? Everyone understood that. All studies show that its just the other way around: we have to plant millions of hectares of forest to capture and store CO2. Definitely not cutting down forest, but what then …? And don’t sacrifice farmland either … Dilemma. You could almost hea r the brains grindingBut slowly the truth , the unavoidable conclusion came surfacing : the new reality would become rugby in the forest: back to the roots of humanity, once climbing out of the trees, and cutting forest to play rugby. A huge mistake from the past which we could make up for again: now back to the forest, and not climb in it, but play in between …! Forest rugby …. The new clubs don’t have to cut a forest, and we are going to replant the pitches here: 1 and 1 is 3 … We capture CO2, and if we also plant with fruit and nut trees, we can eat from it , we rugby in it, no more costs for field maintenance ( the treasurer went nuts) , enough posts, what more could you want? And then everyone starts shouting, “What about the scrum? Against a tree ? “And:” how do we walk an attacking line? ” And on and on. “Why don’t we just give it a try,” I proposed. “A pilot, as befitsrugby-3 a good strategy. And then we will automatically invent those new rules on the spot … ” .


And so it happened, a few months ago we had the first pilot, a try-out in a forest. Though not an ordinary forest, but a bamboo forest … Since bamboo is even more interesting than wood: higher yield, and as strong as steel. Bamboo is the material of the future. As well as the rugby field of the future! It took us a while, to getting used to playing in the bamboo forest, but gradually it became more and more fun, as we discovered the possibilities and rugby-xximpossibilities. And w e actually agreed: this could be a lot of fun. Now without prescribing how this should look exactly, (note: there is even a third dimension in it …!), I challenge all rugby clubs and other sports associations to investigate the possibilities. Fun guaranteed: Do a pilot, play a game in a forest, and make up the rules on the spot. Because 0 emissions is 0 emissions, everything and everyone has to do their bit, and evolution is after all constant change. So: rugby-xon to Climate neutral (forest) rugby:

Make Tries, Not Emissions…!




Author: ronald rovers