PRESS RELEASE: UEFA Champions League teams’ sponsorship deals with major airlines generate as much pollution as Europe’s dirtiest coal plants, finds new research

  • The airline sponsorship deals of elite European teams competing in the Champions League generate a combined total of 14.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. 
  • Despite UEFA’s stated ambitions on climate change and sustainability, widespread deals with major polluters is undermining credibility and sending mixed messages to billions of fans. 
  • Ahead of the Champions League final in London on the 1st June, concerned football fans and campaigners are calling on UEFA to drop polluting sponsors once and for all. 

The planet-warming pollution that arises from airline’s sponsorship of football teams competing in the UEFA Champions League generates an annual carbon footprint of approximately 14.7 million tonnes. If these airline sponsorship deals were a coal power plant, they would also comfortably rank in the top ten worst emitting plants in Europe and North America.

The figures, published by Badvertising, Fossil Free Football and the Game Changer Sponsorship Pledge, are the first time that the ‘advertised emissions’ of football team sponsors have been calculated. Using a robust formula, the researcher calculates the pollution attributable to Champions League sponsorship by using the value of each deal and the emissions and revenues of airlines, assuming that sponsorship generates at least a baseline expansion in revenue. 

For instance, the odds-on favourite to win the final, Real Madrid, have Emirates as their main shirt sponsor. According to the calculations, this deal generates 37.7 kilograms of carbon emissions equivalent for every € that Emirates paid to secure the deal with Real Madrid. For a full breakdown of the calculations and methodology, see here

SponsorSponsorship recipientkg CO2e/sponsor €kg CO2e/sponsor £
Aeroitalia Lazio23.928
Corendon AirlinesPSV44.652.2
EmiratesArsenal, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Benfica37.744
EtihadManchester City42.850
EurowingsBorussia Dortmund34.740.6
Qatar AirwaysPSG, Inter Milan40.447.3
Riyadh AirAtlético Madrid4047
SaudiaNewcastle United 54.664.9
Turkish AirlinesUEFA Champions League 43.350.6

These sponsorship deals have a combined annual value of at least €366 million, according to the Sportsbusiness Sponsorship Database 2024. The total value of the deals tabulated above is at least €1.2 billion.

Concerned football fans and campaigners are using these figures to call on UEFA to drop polluting sponsors and use its leadership role at the top of European football to push for greater ambition on climate change. 

Peter Crisp from Fossil Free Football said: “From the grassroots all the way up to the elite, global heating presents deep risks to a sport reliant on a stable climate. UEFA is keen to speak about the importance of sustainability, but actions speak louder than words. It’s time to deny polluting sponsors the huge platform that football provides.” 

Fossil fuel burning airlines are everywhere in football. Despite what extreme weather and climate crisis means for football’s future, companies which don’t exist without fossil fuels use the sport to glamourise their pollution, drive demand for flying and squash backlash against dirty brands. Approximately one in four stadiums in English football is predicted to face flooding in the next 25 years and around 120,000 amateur matches are already cancelled each year in England. The impacts of climate change on football will only intensify as global emissions continue to rise.  

Freddie Daley from the Badvertising campaign said: Sport was once choking on tobacco sponsorships; now it is drowning in oil. Just like it did with tobacco, football must cut ties with the companies that are putting the future of the game, its players and its fans at risk. Football has vast potential to stimulate greater ambition on climate and mobilise billions of football fans to build a more sustainable future. One of the first steps in this journey must be ending fossil fuel sponsorship.” 

Michael Hardy from GameChanger said: “For far too long football has prioritised financial gain above the health and wellbeing of its fans, the players and, by extension, the game itself. Fans and players are demanding change whilst clubs and governing bodies, like UEFA, drag their heels. Football is heading for a crash landing if it doesn’t step up, take climate action seriously, and drop its climate-wrecking sponsors.”

In the briefing publishing by Badvertising, Fossil Free Football and the Game Changer Sponsorship Pledge, the campaigns call on UEFA to: 

  • Drop polluting sponsors and adopt a ‘tobacco-style’ advertising ban for polluting sponsors in all UEFA competitions. 
  • Fully align with the United Nations Sport for Climate Action Framework that calls upon signatories to promote “sustainable and responsible consumption”. 
  • Take a comprehensive approach to sustainability and climate action that includes the reform of congested fixture schedules leading to a smaller and more regional football calendar. 

The methodology behind the figures combined the total emissions from airlines, total sponsorship spend and revenue of the sponsoring companies that assumes that each sponsorship generates a baseline level of return. For more information on the methodology, see here.

Notes to Editors:

Badvertising is the campaign calling for an end to high-carbon advertising and sponsorship. 

Fossil Free Football is a fan-led campaign group committed to breaking up football’s deep links with the big polluters that threaten the future of the sport and the communities on which it relies.

Game Changer is a sponsorship pledge mobilising fans, athletes, clubs and organisations to bring an end to high-carbon, gambling and alcohol sponsorship in sport!

For media inquiries, please contact Peter Crisp, campaigner Fossil Free Football, peter@fossilfreefootball, +31 6 20 14 29 82.