Asking athletes to go vegan is one thing, they are performance driven and highly educated in nutrition so that’s a relatively easy change BUT ask your stereotypical pie loving, hot dog eating football fan and it’s a whole different demand.
When Dale Vince took over Forest Green Rovers in 2010 he didn’t plan to make the club vegan. His first day changed everything. He noticed the mass produced meat on offer at the cafeteria was being eaten by the very men he was paying to play, and when he ingested the fact that he was now personally paying the bill of more meat than he had ever bought before he instantly made the change.
That exact moment he walked over to the the chef and pulled all red meat from the menu.
Butchers’ contracts were terminated and no more animals were harmed in the feat of Forest Green Rovers getting into the football league.
I’ll save on the suspense – Forest Green made it into the Football League for the first time in their 128 year history, despite away fans singing ‘Where’s your burger van gone’.
Not only did they win the 2016 Wembley playoff final but they went into it with a medical record that verges on miraculous.
Every single player was fit and available to play. They had zero soft tissue injuries. Zero. In football, that’s unheard of. “There is a link between veganism and preventing soft tissue injuries” says Vince “there’s other evidence of that and many other elite sports people know that”.
His groundsman don’t use sprays that affect local bees and never using weed killer as it harms the bugs in the ground. Groundsman Adam Witchell has to walk the grass line by line and cut out any weeds by hand, but don’t feel sorry for him just yet. Witchell has a futuristic friend to help him in other ways.
MowBot is an electrically charged (from solar powered electricity) GPS driven lawn mower. Making sure the FGR pitch is on point. Only one other club in the world has one of these and it’s Bayern Munich. “Big clubs get in touch and want to learn more. The green ethos is spreading” Witchell tells me with a large proud grin on his face.
But what about all the pies?
Well by now you can figure that Vince doesn’t do things by halves, so naturally his Vegan menu is multi-award winning. He caters to the love football fans have for hearty foods with the Q-Pie, which won a podium spot in the British Pie awards, and a sweet potato burger – which is divine!
When I visited the club it was Vince I was most impressed with. Vince is known in the media as ‘The Hippy with £100million’. It’s not far wrong. His journey to building his fortune began with him literally building his own windmill, now he’s the founder of Ecotricity, Britain’s greenest energy company.
In my line of work I’ve met many chairmen, I’ve waited hours to interview them and had to pass big securitymen with pages of non-disclosure agreements. But upon our arrival at Forest Green our cameraman didn’t notice Vince was already in the room.
Vince is calm and dressed in a studded faux leather jacket. He small talks with journalists and laughs with his kitchen staff. He’s friendly and patient and everything the stereotypical football chairman is not. In our interview he speaks with passion and doesn’t take time to think about his answers. He’s being honest. He’s happy and has big dreams. An eco-village and an entire eco friendly stadium are the next big steps for the development of Forest Green Rovers…I’m sold.
You can watch my day at Forest Green Rovers via my Insta Stories here: