Morecambe FC among football stadiums most at risk from climate change
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Of the 92 stadiums in the top English leagues, 39 will face a high risk from three or more climate hazards by 2050, according to experts at insurer Zurich UK.
The study, carried out using advanced climate modelling, ranked all grounds based on their future threat from flooding, extreme rainfall, drought and windstorms.
It suggests clubs could face a challenge from severe weather events unless they take action to prepare and adapt.
Grimsby Town’s stadium could be most affected by climate-related hazards. The ground, located next to the North Sea, is projected to face a heightened threat from coastal flooding, bouts of heavy rain, and drought by 2050.
The next most exposed clubs were Lincoln City, Norwich City, Newport County and Leicester City.
EFL League Two club Morecambe was placed eighth, with its risk coming mainly from windstorm.
The analysis does not factor in any risk mitigation measures put in place by clubs or local authorities.
One in five football grounds (17 out of 92) will be at high or very high risk from coastal and river flooding by 2050. The figure increased to nearly a quarter (22 out of 92) of all clubs when stadiums at medium flood risk were included.
Extreme rainfall is predicted to have the most widespread impact on the game, with all grounds at an elevated risk of heavy rainfall events by 2050.
Torrential rain could lead to flash flooding and waterlogged pitches, especially at lower league sides, which may lack the pitch maintenance budgets of bigger clubs.
Previous studies have suggested one third of grassroots pitches in England are already losing around six weeks a season due to flooding and inadequate drainage*.
Droughts could impact more than a quarter of stadiums (25 out of 92), demanding new approaches to conserving water and maintaining the condition of playing surfaces.
A further quarter (26 out of 92) of grounds could become severely exposed to windstorms, risking damage to stadiums and training facilities.
Kumu Kumar, Head of Zurich Resilience Solutions UK, said: “Football has always had to cope with unpredictable weather, but the game must now prepare for more extreme conditions.
"Floods, torrential rain, droughts and windstorms could damage stadiums and disrupt matches, impacting clubs, players and fans alike.
"Clubs at every tier of the game should take steps to identify and address their risks. The costs of inaction are far greater.”
Zurich called on UK businesses, including football clubs, to identify and address the climate risks they face.
Mr Kumar added: “We’re already seeing more extreme weather events in the UK yet the country as a whole is inadequately prepared. Football clubs, like other businesses, need to close the resilience gap and ready themselves for more destructive weather. By understanding the climate hazards they face, clubs can better prepare and adapt.”
Mr Kumar said there are several steps clubs can take to climate-proof stadiums, including replacing concrete areas with surfaces that can better absorb heavy rain, investing in improved drainage systems and harvesting rainwater to irrigate pitches.