Norway: Football – the sustainable way

The Football Association of Norway is arguably first among equals when it comes to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, in the world of football.

The new United Nations Football for the Goals initiative gives Norwegians a special role by undertaking a pilot project to implement the commitments of the initiative.

“We are proud to be part of it with our pilot project,” Lise Klaveness, president of the Norwegian Football Association, told the UNRIC website.

Women’s Euro

Football for the Goals was launched at the start of the Women’s Euro in England on July 6, to provide a platform for the global football community to engage and champion the Sustainable Development Goals.

While the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) joined the initiative as an inaugural member, the Norwegians’ pilot aims to demonstrate how its national teams, grassroots and leagues, and media partner, will work together to support the goals (SDGs).

“We are very motivated and want to change our behavior, challenge ourselves and raise awareness,” Klaveness said. “It gives us even more motivation and a kick in the butt.”


220305 Lise Klaveness poses for a portrait before she becomes the new president of the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) on March 5, 2022 in Oslo.
Lise Klaveness poses for a portrait before she becomes the new president of the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) on March 5, 2022 in Oslo.
Photo: Vegard Grøtt/BILDBYRÅN/NFF

The Norwegian is very aware that when it comes to the Sustainable Development Goals, football’s record is uneven. It nevertheless points to recent successes that rhyme well with the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Climate change, however, is more of a challenge. “Travel is at the heart of what we do,” said Klaveness, speaking from the Women’s Euro in England. Reducing CO2 emissions from air travel may not be easy to manage. Football players who, for example, participate in the UEFA Champions League, have a demanding schedule with up to 3 matches per week which may theoretically require a trip from Iceland to Azerbaijan or northern Norway to Malta.

“It’s hard to be at the forefront, given that fact. We have to be humble, but even though we may not be able to lead the way on this issue, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We must see what we can do to meet this common challenge. The teams have to travel but that does not prevent us from working on the Goals. With all the travelling, it’s a challenge and we’d be exposed to media criticism if we pretended to be models. But we can make our stadiums more climate-friendly and engage fans on the climate,” says Klaveness.

Integration and inclusion

“The Sustainable Development Goals are not just about climate, so we can also raise awareness about equality, health and inclusion. Integration of refugees and inclusive work with drug users are some of our past successes in Norway,” she adds.

Photo: NFF

Norwegian football clubs, for example, have offered equal opportunities to boys and girls. Indeed, the Federation’s interest is not top-down – it comes from below. Klaveness explains that the Federation acts on sustainability at the initiative of the best clubs in the country. “It comes from the clubs themselves, they asked us to act. So we have to give them credit. Our role is to give them water and oxygen.

Hopefully influential star players will join Football for the Goals. There is reason for optimism, however, judging by the actions of one great Norwegian player. Norwegian international Morten Thorsby is a professional player for Italian Sampdoria.

we play green

Morten Thorsby
Morten Thorsby Photo: We play green.

While most of his colleagues rested after a difficult season, he traveled across Europe to promote ‘We Play Green’, an environmental football movement he started, which is committed to creating attitudes and more sustainable actions.

“The climate issue also affects our sport. It will affect the players, their future and their children. This is something we need to understand and we need to use our role to help,” he recently told Norwegian television TV2 in Brussels. He traveled to the EU capital for meetings with senior EU and UN officials, including Veronika Safrankova, head of the UN Environment Program office in Brussels and Frans Timmermans , First Vice-President of the European Commission.

Klaveness says players cannot be recruited to take part in the Football for the Goals initiative. “It’s on a voluntary basis, but they have to be part of it.”

Klaveness is one of the few women to lead football associations around the world. A lawyer by training, she played 73 matches with the Norwegian national team from 2002-2011.

Human rights

She caught the world’s attention with a speech at an event ahead of the World Cup in Qatar. In front of the hosts, the FIFA management and a predominantly male audience, she criticized the world football federation and the organizers, in particular for the treatment of migrant workers. Although she has made strong statements on the need to include values ​​such as human rights and inclusion in the process of awarding World Cups, she is well aware of the need to respect the other cultures.

Lise Klavéness
Photo: Vegard Grøtt/BILDBYRÅN/NFF

“My starting point is that football should be played by everyone, everywhere and that no country should be excluded from it. It is not Norway’s role to go and dictate to others. However, FIFA should attribute organization of the World Cup in a transparent way with a due diligence process where respect for labor rights and human rights are an integral part of the decision.Football is so global and involves so much money that ‘courageous, ethical and transparent leadership is needed in all international forums, and there is an urgent need to change course here.

Norway did not qualify for the World Cup in Qatar. However, they are with other Nordic football associations bidding to host the 2025 UEFA Women’s Championship.

“The values ​​of sustainable football will be at the heart,” she promises.

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