By Daniel J. McLaughlin
"Meat pie, sausage roll, come on Rovers, give us a goal!" Well, not exactly. That chant would not be allowed from the terraces of Forest Green Rovers, who are the world's only vegan football club.
The Gloucestershire club stopped selling meat burgers in 2010, just days after Dale Vince became chairman of the club. A while later he stopped the club serving white meat, and then fish, making Rovers fully vegetarian.
And finally, cow's milk was replaced with soya or oat milk to remove all animal products from The New Lawn football ground.
Dale Vince told the BBC: "The gap between vegetarian and vegan food is actually quite small; it's a step rather than a leap to take.
"A lot of our food has been vegan for some time now, and this season we've taken the last small step."
He made his money as the founder of the wind turbine company, Ecotricity. The green tycoon has introduced other eco-friendly moves to the club, including solar panels fitted to the stadium roof, and an "organic" pitch, avoiding the use of chemicals.
In 2017, Forest Green Rovers was officially recognised as the world’s first vegan football club - receiving the Vegan Trademark from the Vegan Society.
The club explains why they made the switch to veganism: "FGR became the world’s first vegan football club because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays.
"Living on a plant-based diet instead of animals is one of the biggest things you can do to cut your impact on the planet. Livestock produces just 18 per cent of food calories and 37 per cent of protein, but it takes up more than 80 per cent of farmland. We need to change that."
They add: "More and more sportspeople are choosing a vegan diet because of its health benefits and finding that it improves their athletic performance.
"We’re in good company too. Lionel Messi, Jermain Defoe, Lewis Hamilton, Nate Diaz and Venus Williams have all adopted vegan diets to improve performance."
The ground also offers free electric car-charging for fans. Mr Vince has applied the mantra of his company, which includes supplying green energy, setting up electric car-charging points, and a green mobile phone service, to the football club. Forest Green Rovers has even unveiled plans for a "pioneering carbon-neutral stadium made entirely out of wood", Vice News reports.
Plastic is banned at the New Lawn ground, with paper straws found on the bar in the executive suite. Euronews also notes that the balls and the football boots are no longer made out of leather. "The club also uses no manure at all on its pitch - as an animal product, even a relatively cruelty-free one, it is band. Instead, organic and plant-based fertilisers are used," they write.
Major football broadcasters, including the BBC, Sky Sports, and Premier League Productions, have turned to the Green Army for tips on sustainable sports broadcasting. They attended a meeting at the New Lawn last year hosted by Mr Vince and chief executive Helen Taylor.
The chairman told the Stroud News and Journal: “I think the big, unique challenge for outside broadcasting is power, as they have generators running all day to make sure they’re independent from the grid in case of power cuts – and I think we can do something about that.
"They’re going to give us some data – what a typical matchday looks like in terms of power consumption and we're going to come up with a solution that involves batteries.”
He added: “We’re all about sustainability - we’ve been promoting that to our fans and we knew that other clubs would pick it up, and we went to speak to the UN about that last autumn which was really quite special.
“To have broadcasters come along – I hadn’t really expected it - but I think it shows you how far sustainability is going, it’s reaching everywhere.”
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver recently visited the Gloucestershire club to film an episode of his TV show Friday Night Feast with Jimmy Doherty. The programme went out at the start of the month, marking Veganuary: a month dedicated to encouraging people to reduce their consumption of meat products as a way of promoting a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. The BBC also visited to record an episode of Saturday Kitchen, airing on January 5.
Forest Green Rovers won promotion to the football league for the first time in its 128-year history in 2017. It currently competes in League Two, sitting in seventh place, fighting for a playoff spot. They host Bury in their next league game at the New Lawn on Saturday (K.O. 3pm).