Scoring goals on climate change
Spoiler alert: this is the story of how eight year-old twins, Mark and Oliver, helped their team, Cambridge United, beat some of the top Premier League football clubs at CUP26: football’s biggest ever tournament on climate change.
Let’s take it back to the beginning. In 2021, in the lead up to COP26, Count Us In teamed up with Planet Super League, the UK Government’s Together For Our Planet and Sky, to power a tournament like no other, where it was up to fans to get their team to the top through their climate action. And garnering the support of 49 professional football clubs, CUP26 was finally launched in the build up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26 (see what we did there?), at Wembley Stadium.
For eight weeks, clubs battled it out, rallying their fans to take on planet-protecting, goal-scoring activities, ranging from having a meat-free meal, to building draft excluders with old socks, to the Lucas Moura-backed No Moura Landfill, which challenged football lovers to do keepy-uppies with their recyclable waste and shoot them into the right bin.
CUP26 celebrated fans of all ages and backgrounds taking climate action – as part of our outreach to 25,000 schools across the nation, we even got the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to visit a school and roll up his sleeves with kids to plant veggies for school meals. And we turned up the competition by a nudge, hosting a Day of Action, where for 24 hours, fans could take a hat-trick of impactful actions worth 3x the goals.
So where do Mark and Oliver come in, you ask? They scored an amazing 629 goals for their club, Cambridge United, getting the team ahead of international football heavyweights like Arsenal, Spurs, Fulham and Aston Villa! Through the tournament they teamed up with their family to join them in long walks instead of car rides, litter picking, hanging up their washing instead of using the tumble dryer, and other activities to get in touch with nature like taking photographs of bugs and making a bird feeder.
William said, “I thought we should get involved because I really like nature and was hearing on the news that lots of animals have become extinct. I saw lots of CUP26 activities I would enjoy, so I just did loads.”
And his brother, Oliver, added, “I really enjoyed CUP26, because I really like going on walks, helping save nature and spending time with my family. It’s made me more interested in climate, because I understand more about the effects of climate change.”
To wrap up the competition, we held a special event in the frame of COP26, featuring football legend Ledley King and the Prime Minister’s COP26 Climate spokesperson, where we awarded the CUP26 trophy to Cambridge United.
Upon being surprised on national television with the news, William was beaming with pride:
“I feel really excited we won because it makes Cambridge United a more famous club…if more people [play] CUP26 in the future, then the more animals and nature there’ll be - we need nature to survive.”
All the while, Oliver had a message to send to clubs, fans and leaders: “People at the climate change conference need to start trying to save the planet. They need to stop people cutting down trees. I’m proud of what we’ve done - it makes me feel happy to know I’m saving the planet.”
CUP26 engaged fans to take more than 14,300 climate actions and it was celebrated by Sky News, Sky Sports News, ITV News, iNews, CNN, BBC The One Show and Daily Mail Online, reaching millions around the UK and beyond with a clear message that our steps may seem small when we take them alone, but when we come together, we can add up to something bigger.
With 3.5 billion fans, football is the world’s most popular sport…in the UK alone, 78% of families are excited by it. Can you imagine what we could do if we used the universal passion for this sport to tackle climate change?
For Count Us In, CUP26 was just the beginning of harnessing football in the fight against climate change. Join us as we invite other fans, in the UK and around the world to take steps on climate that add up to something bigger.