BarcelonaWhile in Barcelona people echoed, especially on social networks, the environmental awareness of Barça’s latest signing, Héctor Bellerín, at the same time in France a controversy was growing related to the environmental impact of the private planes used by the teams of first level football. That PSG, owned by Qatar Sports Investments, is a club that flaunts its ostentation is not new – in 2017 they paid Neymar’s release clause, 222 million euros -, but they have shaken the country in cynicism from his coach, Christophe Galtier, and the teasing of the team’s star, Kylian Mbappé. The trips by private jet of footballers, coaching staff, staff and managers of the Parisian club to cities relatively close to the capital have provoked an avalanche of criticism.
The unfortunate reaction of Galtier and Mbappé was during a press conference. When a reporter asked them why the team had flown to the Nantes pitch, just under 400 kilometers west of Paris – a journey that can be made in less than two hours by high-speed train -, the coach and the footballer burst out laughing. Galtier further decided to scoff and said the team was considering traveling with “a cart”. The snowball got so big that the coach would end up apologizing in the following press conference. The journalist’s question came in the wake of statements by Alan Krakovitch, one of the directors of the railway company SNCF, who had tweeted on Sunday recommending PSG to use the high-speed train.
Last year, the French Parliament approved a law that prohibits domestic flights when there is a rail alternative – much less polluting – for journeys of less than two and a half hours. A regulation, however, from which private flights are exempt. In statements a few months ago, the general director of the SNCF, Jean-Pierre Farandou, stated that a high-speed train pollutes “80 times less than an airplane”. PSG’s travel policy contrasts with the agreement that Betis, a Spanish League team, recently signed with Renfe. The Andalusian team and the state railway company have signed a collaboration pact so that the train is the “official transport” for the football and basketball teams of the entity. In fact, the French Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, mentioned the example of Betis in statements to the broadcaster France Info.
A common practice
The use of charter flights, however, is a common practice for major football teams. Barça often use them under the pretext that they usually know the times of the League matches with a margin of a few weeks in advance (between three and four) and that they often play late, facts that make it difficult to catch regular flights. In addition, Blaugrana expeditions often exceed forty people. Also because the accumulation of matches in a busy schedule reduces the possibilities of transport taking into account the rest of the players. Unlike the controversy surrounding PSG’s move to Nantes, Barça has indeed gone to fields such as Vila-real, to Castelló de la Plana (just under 300 kilometers away), by bus, or to Zaragoza (300 km ), when the Aragonese team played in Primera. Sometimes, however, they have also traveled to Castellón by charter flight. In terms of sections, the club does use many more alternatives to private jets. At the same time, since the entry of the new board, the club says that it has committed itself to work for sustainability, especially with regard to the construction of Espai Barça.
Espanyol’s policy is similar to Blaugrana’s and the parakeet first team often travel in small charters, with a capacity of around 50 seats, which are for the club’s staff. As for journeys of between two and three hours by road, they are usually done by coach, which includes journeys within Catalonia and the Valencian Country. In cities like Pamplona or Bilbao, on the other hand, they go there by private flight. Since the pandemic, they are also going to Madrid by plane, although before they used to do it by high-speed train.
The case of Girona, a team that has been promoted to Primera this year, contrasts. Last year in Segona they often traveled by coach and this year, if they choose to do it by plane, they do it by regular flight. This means that the team goes by coach to Barcelona airport to catch the plane. The Girona club explain, however, that they prioritize the high-speed train if they can. It is what they will use to travel to Madrid and, surely, they will also use it when they go to Pamplona or the Basque Country, as they already do with the Valencian Country. They do not rule out flying on a charter, but only if the schedules and the calendar complicate the rest of the players. In fact, the last charter that Girona’s first team took was in the summer, to go play in Tenerife on the way back from playoff promotion and because the options with regular flights did not suit them.
The example of Sankt Pauli
If there is one team that is the opposite of PSG (and other big European clubs) in terms of travel policy, it is Sankt Pauli, currently in the German Second Division. Known for being statutorily anti-racist, anti-homophobic and anti-fascist, the popular Hamburg outfit are preparing for the first car-free game at their stadium this weekend. This means that the team will get there with an electric coach and the fans will have to do it on foot, by bike or by public transport. “It’s a first step together with our mobility partner, the public transport organization of Hamburg,” club president Oke Göttlich told ARA.