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Going Green? A First Look At The German Football League’s New Sustainability Criteria

Pitch surrounded by trees
Wednesday, 28 September 2022 By Dr Tinusch Jalilvand, David Menz

Due to its overriding global importance, the issue of sustainability has firmly reached sport and its decision-makers. At various levels, sports federations and sports clubs are working towards making their own activities sustainable. For example, the Bundesliga football club SV Werder Bremen e.V. recently joined[1] the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework;[2] and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already been supporting the United Nations “Clean Seas Campaign” since 2018, calling on other sports associations to also join the campaign to protect the world's oceans[3]. The main common feature of these sustainability measures undertaken by sports federations and sports clubs has, so far, been that they are an expression of voluntary commitments.

The German Football League (DFL) has recently gone a big step further. With its resolution of 30 May 2022, the DFL decided to introduce binding sustainability criteria as licensing requirements for the clubs of the first two German football leagues (i.e. the 1. and 2. Bundesliga).[4] The DFL Sustainability Guideline[5] (Sustainability Guideline), introduced as Annex XIV of the DFL Licensing Regulations[6] (Licensing Regulations), contains currently a total of 117 criteria (Sustainability Criteria). Compliance with will no longer be a voluntary commitment for the clubs of the 1. and 2. Bundesliga and shall instead, be part of the licensing process and thus constitute binding legal requirements.[7] This important step is part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy of the DFL, which includes the installation of a "Sustainability Commission" to advise the DFL Executive Committee on strategic issues[8]; an annual DFL Sustainability Forum;[9] and the support of the education programme "Sustainability in Sports Organisations", in the context of which representatives of the Bundesliga clubs are trained in sustainability management issues[10]. Within this comprehensive sustainability strategy, the introduction of the Sustainability Criteria as part of the licensing process is probably the DFL's greatest unique selling point compared to other national and international sports leagues.

This article analyses the Sustainability Criteria, looking at its:

  • Legal status and principal requirements for clubs;
  • The extent to which it incorporates underlying legal sources; and
  • Potential further developments.

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Written by

Dr Tinusch Jalilvand

Dr Tinusch Jalilvand

Dr Tinusch Jalilvand is Attorney at Law and Associate at the sports law firm Martens Lawyers.

David Menz

David Menz

David Menz is a Salary Partner at Martens Lawyers. He advises numerous international and national sports federations, clubs and athletes in various sports matters.

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