It’s interesting, the way in which we decide who to support in football. For some people, they have a local team to cheer for. Others support whoever is the league powerhouse around the time they begin their search for “their team”. Reasons are as diverse as choosing the first team they heard of, to liking a particular player on the team at a given time, to the team’s nickname, logo, and colours. I myself have several factors that I weigh up when choosing “my team” for each league (I even have a spreadsheet listing my favourite team from every country (yes, I know this makes me a nerd)).
For the Finnish football leagues (which I am most familiar with, as I write articles about Finnish football in my free time), I am partial to teams from Lapland (since it has long been my dream to live there). For British football, however, my selection method for who to support was much more juvenile. I’ve always been a fan of underdogs, so when I was searching for a British team to support, I looked at teams that were in the lower reaches of the Championship (British second division). The one that caught my eye was a little team that had just been promoted to the Championship called Leicester City. And as juvenile as it sounds, my reasoning for doing so was because they have an awesome logo, they are nicknamed The Foxes (which I adore), their mascot is Filbert Fox (how can you cheer against Filbert Fox?), and their colours are blue and white (perhaps my favourite colour combination). I mean, I didn’t have any ties whatsoever to any of the teams in Britain, and I didn’t want to cheer for a powerhouse such as Manchester United or Chelsea, so why not Leicester?
Well, here we are about four years later, and I have shockingly been made a fan of the reigning Premier League Champions. Believe me, having been a fan for several years, I was as surprised as anyone, and certainly I was fired up about their run to become the most unlikely title winners in Premier League history as anyone. Despite this, though, I decided that it was time to adopt a “Second Favourite Team” in England. Leicester will always be number one for me, but alas, I have begun to miss the days of lower league football/non-league football, with all of its quirks and characters. I even miss having to search frantically where to find my lower-league team’s games online as games were about to start (there’s no thrill of the chase when Leicester City’s games are always televised).
So now, here I am, searching for my second team, when I stumble upon a tiny National League (British 5th Division) team with a very quirky setup, and appeals to me in a way that other clubs wouldn’t even imagine of trying to appeal to me. Who is this team?
Enter Forest Green Rovers FC.
Forest Green Rovers are from Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, were founded in 1889, and have always been a non-league club with their best result being 2015-16’s 2nd place finish in the National League. They won the FA Vase (a cup competition for the 9th tier of British football and lower) in the 1981-82 season, but I first heard of them when an article came out about them in October of 2015. Why was an article written by a major publication about a 5th division club you ask? Because in October 2015, Forest Green became an All-Vegan Club.
Yes, you read that correctly, the club is all-vegan.
What does that mean? Well, all of their players are prohibited from eating non-vegan meals and even their concessions at their ground serve only vegan options. After reading this, I was reminded of how fun it is to cheer for a lower league side, and I decided to look more into FGRFC. While researching, I found myself loving this team more and more. They are known as The Greenest Club in England and have won awards for sustainability and environmental protection for their ground, named The New Lawn. Their pitch is made of organic grass (no herbicides, no pesticides, no fertiliser, just all-natural grass) and rainwater is collected from the stadium roof. They have solar panels all around their ground, and not only is their stadium powered in part by solar panels, but even their lawnmower is solar powered (and is a programmed robot that cuts the grass on its own, only texting the head groundskeeper if something malfunctions). This is all because their club’s chairman, Dale Vince, is also the owner of a large, local green energy company.
His vision for the club is to be totally sustainable, and being a lower/non-league club owner allows him to do as he pleases freely with his club. As an environmentalist myself, I love the goal of the club, their passion for conservation, and all the steps they’re taking to achieve their vision of what they want to accomplish. And, of course, I love how quirky this is. When was the last time you heard of a football club being all-vegan, playing on an organic grass pitch that’s cut by a solar powered robot? I would suspect that you haven’t (though if you have, please let me know about it!). And how could I not fall in love with this club?
While Forest Green Rovers will never overtake Leicester City in my heart as my number one favourite British team, they are clearly my “team number two”, and they give me a reason, again, to actively watch lower league and non-league football. The process itself of finding them was an absolute joy, and now having another team to cheer for makes my whole football experience (pun on this site’s name intended) that much more enjoyable. So maybe you aren’t into environmentalism and conservation, and the idea of an all-vegan club is off-putting to you, then Forest Green Rovers FC is not for you. But there’s thousands of teams out there, and one of them will certainly have a special draw to you. You may already have a team you support, as most of us do, but as I have found out, there’s always room for a “Second Favourite Team” in your life, and I honestly hope you find yours.