In 2010 Dale Vince bought Conference National side Forest Green Rovers (FGR) before turning the organization into the world’s first vegan club in 2015 with its sights set on joining the Football League. In 2017, Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin switched to a vegan lifestyle, which aligned with his eco-focused interests. On Tuesday, the two parties announced their partnership with Bellerin’s addition to the club’s ownership group.
FGR revealed that Hector has bought into the club and will now be the second-largest shareholder after Dale Vince. Bellerin spoke about his decision to invest in the Rovers:
“I was really excited when I first discovered the opportunity to get involved at Forest Green Rovers – and the brilliant work the club is already doing. It’s important that I invest in things I am passionate about – and I’m excited to help push football into having a sustainable future. Forest Green Rovers prove to clubs who say ‘they don’t have resources to be sustainable’ – that it is possible. With the new stadium, being carbon neutral and vegan the club is doing some mind-blowing work. People have a universal love of football, so there’s no better industry to promote sustainability – and what we can do as football supporters to be more environmentally conscious.”
Forest Green Rovers was founded in 1889, playing in local and regional leagues until climbing up into the Conference League, the fifth and sixth tiers (now the National League) in 1998. In the club’s second full season under their new vegan mission saw them win promotion to the EFL League Two for the first time in their history. The club is planning to build a new environmentally-friendly stadium in the coming years and in 2018 the United Nations declared Forest Green Rovers to be the ‘World’s First Carbon Neutral Football Team’.
Bellerin has long used his platform to raise awareness about environmental and societal issues. His latest move aligns perfectly, combining football, veganism, and the environment. We all know Hector loves boldness and fashion, so I’m guessing we might see a picture of him in FGR’s bamboo kits at some point this season.
In an interview with The Athletic Bellerin noted, “Dale has revolutionised that football club — they’re vegan, they’re eco-friendly, they have a neutral carbon footprint. They’re a clear example of how to run a football club in our times so I wanted to be a part of it and offer my help to them in whichever way I could.”
9-months of planning & discussions of a shared vision for sustainablity in football & wider society.— Héctor Bellerín (@HectorBellerin) September 8, 2020
So happy to have joined the @FGRFC_official journey. Loads more to come in the future to help our #WeAreFGR
Bellerin’s stake in the club is permitted by FA based on share-holder levels, as to not create a conflict of interest while he plays for another club in the FA. For the foreseeable future expect his involvement to center around raising awareness of the club, its initiatives, and extending that message beyond the football club.
On Saturday, Bellerin will line up with Arsenal to take on Fulham as the Premier League kicks off. Meanwhile, four hours to the northwest, Forest Green Rovers will begin their League Two season as they travel up to Bolton.