Forest Green will become the first team in the world to travel to a sports event in an electric coach on Saturday for what they hope will be a promotion party at Bristol Rovers.
The Sky Bet League Two leaders can seal promotion to the third tier this weekend and will make the short journey from Gloucestershire to the Memorial Ground in a state-of-the-art electric vehicle.
It fulfils a pledge made by Rovers chairman Dale Vince at the start of the season to use one. The coach for this weekend’s game is being leased from London company Westway but in the longer term the club intend to buy one for suitable away trips next season.
Time to prepare for Bristol Rovers (A) ⚔️
— Forest Green Rovers (@FGRFC_Official) April 20, 2022
The coach they are using on Saturday, manufactured by Chinese firm Yutong, has a range of 180 miles before recharging is required.
Forest Green are regarded as world leaders among sports teams striving to be sustainable.
The club’s New Lawn ground is powered 100 per cent by renewable energy, they play on an organic pitch which is not treated with pesticides or weedkiller, they reuse rain water to irrigate the pitch rather than rely on mains water and provide electric car charge points at the stadium.
The club’s head coach Rob Edwards has an electric car, as does chief executive Henry Staelens, and the team have played in a kit made from coffee waste.
All food served at the ground is vegan, while there are plans to move to a new stadium called the Eco Park made entirely from wood.
Vince told the PA news agency: “Our work focuses on three big things – energy, transport and food.
“Since I began with the club in 2010 I’ve wanted an electric team bus because it’s one of the things within our control on the transport front that we haven’t managed to crack yet. We’ve been waiting for electric buses to come into the world and they’re here now.
“We’re hoping to get one ourselves for the coming season and we’ll see how many games we can squeeze in with it, but it’s super-important that we electrify transport to reduce emissions and consumption of fossil fuels.”
The electric coach will make the short journey to Bristol a momentous one, but Vince was also keen to reflect on the journey his club have been on since coming into the Football League in 2017.
“We’ve made steady progress since then which is what we aim to do, rather than boom and bust. And hopefully we do the same now,” Vince said.
He said the move to the Eco Park could be another three or four seasons away.
“Really the plan is to have it ready before we need it,” he said.
“We can stay where we are and survive in League One OK, it’ll be a stretch but we can manage it. But before we get to the Championship, we really need the new stadium.”
The current plans for the Eco Park, Vince said, feature a capacity of 12,000, more than double the current capacity at the New Lawn of 5,000.