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In order to address the climate crisis, women's football needs to sever its connections with Barclays bank, according to Katie Rood.
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In order to address the climate crisis, women’s football needs to sever its connections with Barclays bank, according to Katie Rood.


When I participate in football, I am able to escape the daily concerns of life. However, as a youth living in a time of climate and environmental emergency, it has become difficult to ignore these worries. This is exacerbated by the fact that the sport I love is being threatened by the climate crisis, and one of the primary culprits is using football in England as a diversion from its harmful actions.

As a professional soccer player, I have been honored to represent my home country of New Zealand in 15 matches. From winning championships in Italy with Juventus to my current team, Hearts, in the Scottish Women’s Premier League, I have been fortunate to play football in diverse environments. My ultimate aim was to use football as a way to see the world, but the reality has been different from what I had imagined.

I am using my profession to combat the pressing issue of our time: addressing climate change. You may label me as contradictory, but I would still accept a call to play for New Zealand, even with the associated travel. However, no one is flawless and this accusation will not deter me from utilizing my platform to promote positive transformation. My upbringing in New Zealand instilled in me the importance of safeguarding our valuable ecosystems.

The popularity of women’s football is on the rise, and as it continues to grow, we are faced with a crucial moment. We have the opportunity to shape the future of the sport and determine our fundamental beliefs. Where do we envision women’s football in the next five or ten years? Which partnerships do we want to prioritize?

The Lionesses have raised £600m for girls’ football programs in English schools, while the Afghanistan women’s national team is standing up against the Taliban. Football players are making a significant impact on the direction of our sport, as demonstrated by the Women’s World Cup and the 44 players who initiated a major climate campaign. We understand our role in shaping the future of football.

Which brings me to something I can’t ignore. Barclays, the lead sponsor for the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship in England, was the top European funder of fossil fuels between 2016 and 2022, according to the Rainforest Action Network’s banking on climate chaos report. The report states that Barclays provided £149bn to the fossil fuel sector, including to Shell and TotalEnergies, whose products are driving up planet-warming emissions. This situation is sadly not unique to women’s football but we have an opportunity – and I believe a duty – to change it.

A Barclays advertising hoarding at Brighton’s game against Chelsea last weekend

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Earlier this year, Barclays introduced its “Here for the land of football” initiative, with support from well-known soccer players, to increase investment in the sport. In my opinion, this is a deceitful effort to improve its reputation and use women’s soccer as a diversion from the harm it causes in pursuit of financial gain. The company prioritizes profits over the long-term success of soccer and puts the planet at risk in the process.

The effects of climate change will greatly harm women’s football. I previously backed Football For Future’s findings presented in the Future of Women’s Football Review, which revealed this impact. Even at the professional level, the infrastructure for women’s football is not equipped to handle severe weather conditions, such as frozen fields and extreme heat. Additionally, many women’s teams do not have access to their club’s main stadium, which limits their control over facilities.

Katie Rood in action for Lewes against Arsenal in 2020.View image in fullscreen

During the 2022 European Championships, the English women’s national team had to practice indoors due to hot weather conditions leading up to their quarter-final match against Spain. In a previous season, a game between Chelsea and Liverpool was called off after only six minutes due to a frozen field. Experts concur that climate change is increasing the likelihood of extreme weather events. The impact of the climate crisis on the beloved sport of football is becoming increasingly apparent.

Climate change will also exacerbate almost every inequality that exists between men and women, disproportionately affecting women’s and girls’ ability to perform everyday tasks. While I fight for climate action in football, one of our sponsors is funding the destruction of habitats that communities depend on to survive.

Barclays promotes its support for women and girls, stating that “football is for everyone”. However, any progress made in promoting women’s football is overshadowed by the negative effects it has on our environment.

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I am appealing to the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship to reconsider the position they have assigned to Barclays. We have worked tirelessly for years to elevate the sport to its current state, and as it continues to develop, we must ensure that it aligns with our principles and guarantees a promising future.

This is our chance to be courageous and demonstrate a different approach to the world. There is still much more improvement to be achieved, and we have a significant chance to partner with an organization that will guide us towards a better tomorrow. It is time for Barclays to take responsibility for its actions. While it may promote inspiring the future of football, its harmful behavior will ultimately leave us with no planet to enjoy the game on.

Katie Rood is a soccer player from New Zealand who follows a vegan diet. She has played for the New Zealand national team 15 times and is currently without a contract as she recovers from a knee injury. She has previously played for clubs such as Juventus, Bristol City, Lewes, Southampton, and Heart of Midlothian.

The Barclays response

Barclays has been a sponsor of the Premier League for more than 23 years and the Women’s Super League since it turned professional in 2019. This is the biggest investment ever made by a brand in women’s sports in the UK. Through the Barclays Community Football Fund, we have helped over 2,900 community sports groups to promote accessibility to football. We are also committed to providing equal opportunities for girls to play football in schools through our partnerships with Barclays Girls’ Football Schools, which has expanded from approximately 3,000 schools to nearly 20,000 since 2019.

In order to achieve a net zero carbon footprint, there must be investments made to meet current and future energy needs on a global scale. This includes investing in traditional sources like oil and gas, as well as expanding the use of renewable energy. Barclays is committed to supporting energy companies as they transition to more sustainable practices, with a target of providing $1 trillion in financing. Additionally, we are investing £500 million in climate technology that is necessary for decarbonization. As one of the top clean energy advisers in the world, we are playing a crucial role in financing real-world efforts towards decarbonization.

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Source: theguardian.com