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  • Writer's pictureEllis Pearce

Hooligans Against Fossil Fuel Financing

This post breaks down my response to the D&AD New Blood Sport4Climate brief, analysing the issues that need to be addressed by the campaign and then breaking down the response. This response is not meant as ‘the solution’ to the problems discussed but as one way of looking at the problem. Discussion includes: the feminisation of environmentalism, the impact of the climate crisis on local communities, and motivating collective action.

Environmentalism As Women’s Work

There is a gender disparity in the adoption of positive environmental behaviours (PEBs) that is leaving women with the burden of environmental action (Mintel, 2018) .There are several factors at play for this trend.

Firstly the emphasis on a consumerist solution (individuals making sustainable choices) to the climate crisis within wider society is disproportionately directed toward women, to a degree this is a matter of the products at hand. With products that target a traditionally female demographic (hosiery, reusable sanitary products, beauty and skincare) being re-imagined by sustainable brands. However existing gender disparity within the home still plays an important factor in the positioning of climate action as women's works - women are still performing the bulk of domestic labour (UCL, 2019) , the result of which is a greater exposure to the consumerist solution.

This disparity creates a precarious position in which solving the climate crisis becomes women's work - the consideration of how to live a more sustainable life, and the labour involved in this commitment becomes another burden for women inside the home. This is not to say that there are not women engaged with collective or democratic action in betterment of the climate - as we have seen with Oscario-Cortez and Greta Thunberg, women consistently play a key role in bringing the issue of climate crisis to a national or international political stage - however it is to say that until mass structural reformation is brought about, the burden of adopting positive environmental behaviours and the financial and time cost associated is falling disproportionately to women.

Increasingly, PEBs are an exercise of privilege. The high price point for ethical or sustainable items creates a dichotomy in which behaviours adopted for the sake of the planet become public displays of virtue and wealth that can only be practiced by the financially privileged. Even though behaviors that are inherently sustainable such as thrifting, reducing food waste and using public transport have always been a necessity for the under-privileged, these behaviours become trendy, the price point rises and they become less accessible to those who have previously relied on these behaviours to meet their general needs (for example second-hand stores raising prices to meet demand). The result is a social stigma and status system based around the ability to curate public displays of positive environmental behaviours that punishes those who either are unable to commit to or adopt these behaviours even if sustainability is a personal consideration. For a consumerist approach to environmentalism to work without legislation, and even with, it is necessary for labour to be valued above profit, and the worker at all levels of production be embolden to have financial freedom to make sustainable choices.

While it’s important that everyone has consideration for their individual environmental impact and understands the needs of the crisis, the solution is not necessarily to share the burden of consumerist sustainability between men and women but to remove the burden altogether. It is essential that sustainability not be a choice the consumer needs to make but an essential consideration in all stages of production and distribution that is required by law. This leaves the need for legislative action to steer the default line of production in the direction of sustainability, however as long as there is an over emphasis on the consumerist solution the energy expended on climate action will be directed toward the self and not the system.

The perception of environmentalism as women's work results in another problem, one that will be explored as part of the proposed campaign below. Femininity and greenness have become linked in the public consciousness, and by extension of that, adopting positive environmental behaviours is seen as a threat to masculinity and those with masculine identities expect social consequence for engaging with these behaviours . The distancing of masculine identities from environmentalism only furthers the responsibility of women.

There are a number of pseudo-scientific myths that prop up the association of environmentalism with femininity, for example that eating soy effects your estrogen levels. The debunking of these bizarre claims displaying that there is more estrogen in dairy, that the estrogen in soy has no impact on the human body, that testosterone isn’t even that indicative of athletic performance and certainly not a measure of masculinity might offer some reassurance to the misguided, but ultimately claims like this are not the source of the perception that PEBs are feminine but are used to justify that perception. The fear that performing public PEBs will result in ostracisation exists, so irrational false science is employed to justify this fear. The fear precedes the explanation, meaning the fear must be dissuaded before these PEBs may be adopted.

In order to relieve women from the extended burden of costly PEB’s and reposition environmentalism as an ungendered issue, the campaign I have created in response to the D&AD Sport4Climate brief, takes football on as a lense through which to reposition climate action as a community issue and inspire collective action in the hopes of societal wide change.

Why Football?

As discussed, people who reject an environmentalist identity are less likely to engage with PEBs as they expect negative responses from their in-group, thus positive environmental behaviours within an in-group are de-incentivised by the fears surrounding social consequence. To encourage this behaviour the entire group's relationship to environmentalism must shift. Football is part of a shared masculine identity in Britain, as well as a shared national identity. Emphasising the threat that the climate crisis poses to football, and to a wider degree local communities, positions the crisis itself as a threat to masculine identity, rather than the behaviours addressing it.

It’s also important that football, like most sport, is a community based activity and has a particular relationship to local communities and national identity. Because of the highly emotional nature of national identities, positioning this identity as under threat can produce powerful collective action as those with a shared identity act as a group to defend themselves from the threat.


Research explored the visual history surrounding football and the role that sport plays not just in a masculine identity but in a nationalist one.


Encouraging a consumerist approach among football fans while the sport itself is propped up by significant actors in the fossil fuel industries (Barclays who sponsor the premier league provided $24.58bn of underwriting and lending to large fossil fuel companies in the first nine months of 2020) seems both hypocritical and misguided. While the large number of fans travelling to stadiums and consuming goods related to the sport, presents itself as an opportunity to reduce waste considerably simply by the sheer volume of fans, the reality is once again that societal infrastructure must exist - such as greater public transport links, legislation surrounding packaging, access to public water taps - to position PEBs as the default. For these behaviours to be adopted at a level that would have any meaningful impact, these societal changes only come about via legislation and that legislation only comes about through democratic challenges to the existing system. With that in mind, the volume of people and shared identity of sports fans creates a powerful opportunity for collective action, as well as an opportunity to reposition environmentalism as a community activity.

The Campaign

Visually the material must be distinct from existing trends in green marketing, as the existing association with environmentalism as a feminine pursuit will extended to the perception of existing marketing surrounding these behaviours, regardless of whether the material itself is traditionally feminine. As a result the campaign shies away from using greens, instead opting for a muted blue, red and cream palette that evokes the flag of the Union while adopting a sense of nostalgia. The allusions to the Union flag attempt to strike on the strong emotional identity surrounding nationalism and tie this to the need for climate action for the sake of the community rather than the image of the individual.

As the emphasis is on collective democratic action it necessary to break the flow of information down into three points, firstly identify the problem and how it affects the audience (flooding caused by climate change results in a loss of green community spaces), secondly identify the bad actors (fossil fuel industries, in particular financiers) and thirdly lay out the direct steps the audience can follow to have an impact. It is on this third point that this campaign perhaps falls short - in hindsight the strong directional pull of the exclamation point could have be used to illustrate a direct call to action, and demonstrate the specific steps the audience must take.

'Hooligans' acts as the identifier in this campaign. The history of 'Hooligans' and it's negative connotations may serve as a strength to this campaign. The emotional history may be employed as a means of reclaiming the external perception of football fans, and used to re-purpose the sense of identity for the common good. To take on powerful industries or structures people need to feel both emboldened in their own identity and feel like those structures pose a legitimate threat. 'Hooligans' acts as a reminder of the ways working class communities and culture is viewed by the very structures and systems that now threaten community spaces and becomes a rallying point.

Guerrilla Tactics

The Sport4Climate brief calls for Guerrilla tactics to promote the campaign. Muralism is a strong tradition among football fans that can be used to highlight the societal and community good brought about by fans or may be places of community mourning and celebration. In keeping with this the campaign would offer grants to commission local artists to create murals in public spaces celebrating what their local club means to them encourages the community to engage and introduces a sense of locality and specificity to the campaign.

Other Guerrilla tactics proposed included window stickers, to use the natural surroundings as part of the display and text based displays that drew attention to flooded spaces in real time.


The Emotions of Protest - James M Japser 2018


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