Arsenal's Bellerin buys into eco trailblazers Forest Green Rovers

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal’s Spanish defender Hector Bellerin has become the second-largest shareholder in Forest Green Rovers, the world’s most environmentally sustainable soccer club, according to FIFA.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup Semi Final - Arsenal v Manchester City - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - July 18, 2020. Arsenal's Hector Bellerin in action, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Justin Tallis/Pool via REUTERS

Bellerin, who this year pledged to ensure 3,000 trees were planted in the Amazon rainforest for every Arsenal win, said he was excited to join Rovers’ green revolution.

“It’s important that I invest in things I am passionate about -- and I’m excited to help push football into having a sustainable future,” the 25-year-old told the club’s website.

“People have a universal love of football, so there’s no better industry to promote sustainability -- and what we can do as football supporters to be more environmentally conscious.”

Forest Green Rovers play at the New Lawn Stadium in Gloucestershire and will begin their League two fixtures at Bolton Wanderers this coming weekend.

The club, owned by green energy entrepreneur Dale Vince, has been widely praised for its work in addressing climate change and has been declared ‘carbon neutral’ by the United Nations.

It serves only vegan food, the grass pitch is 100% organic, the lawnmowers are powered by solar energy and the players even wear shin pads made of bamboo rather than plastic.

Plans have also been approved for the world’s first all-wood stadium designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

“Forest Green Rovers prove to clubs who say ‘they don’t have resources to be sustainable’ -- that it is possible. With the new stadium, being carbon neutral and vegan the club is doing some mind-blowing work,” said Bellerin, who is vegan himself.

Vince, who launched a Sports for Climate Action campaign alongside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2018, said he welcomed Bellerin’s involvement.

“I like Hector’s approach, his personal journey and the things he’s trying to do -- they make sense,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with him on our projects at FGR and this wider agenda we have a shared interest in.”

Bellerin is not the only high-profile footballer to support environmental campaigns.

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is an investor in a textile company using pineapple leaf fibre as a substitute for leather and oil-based materials, while Bellerin’s former team mate Aaron Ramsey is a campaigner for elephant conservation.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson