CASE STUDY: ANTI-RACIST SOCCER CLUB AND VERMONT GREEN FC
This case study is a collaboration between the Anti-Racist Soccer Club and Vermont Green FC. In early 2021, Vermont Green FC officially joined the Anti-Racist Soccer Club coalition to take meaningful steps towards combating racism within the sport of soccer. For the past year, the two organizations have worked together to develop a strategic plan that addresses various aspects of inequity in soccer and the club’s local community.
As a result of the hard work and dedication of the front office staff, coaches, and players of the organization, in partnership with ARSC and the local community, the club built a solid foundation for its grassroots efforts to engage its community through anti-racist actions and behaviors. The ARSC 10 point plan framework provided the club with the context and guidance needed to focus its DEI efforts. As a result, the club connected with a broader, more diverse constituency within its community, developing partnerships that were fundamental to the success of the club in its inaugural season. The partnership also laid the foundation to begin the work of exploring and discovering where and how anti-racism and environmental justice support and reinforce each other for the greater good. This case study will outline all of the work that the club did in year one and show how a soccer club, with an intentional focus on building anti-racism into its DNA, can be a successful driver of change in its community.
Anti-Racist Soccer Club
This coalition was created to fight racism in American soccer. The founding organizations and individuals understand the need to address the ongoing systemic racism that exists within our game, with impactful action. The 10-point plan is the foundation for what American soccer clubs can do as a starting point and this coalition will continue to guide any clubs that wish to adopt and implement the plan. Clubs, leagues, and supporter groups can apply to join the Anti-Racist Soccer Club coalition by submitting their version of the 10-point plan that fits their community, based on ARSC guidelines. Accountability must become a part of the process in fighting racism.
Vermont Green FC
Vermont Green Football Club is a men’s soccer club that kicked off its inaugural season in May 2022. The club competes in the USL League Two division of the USL ecosystem. The club is embarking on an ambitious mission to embed environmental justice into its competitive strategy, operational processes, and culture. The club believes soccer can be a powerful catalyst for a more environmentally sustainable and socially just world. The ultimate goal is to build a club that prioritizes the environment and the well-being of all people in all business decisions impacting our local and global communities.
The Intersection of Environmental Justice and Anti-Racism
In the United States, environmental justice emerged within and out of the civil rights movements in the 1960s. While the broader civil rights movement exposed and fought against racism that deprived citizens of political rights, economic opportunity, social justice, and human dignity, other citizens and activists were fighting against an extension of racism that targeted people of color and poor people as the recipients of pollution.1 These communities were the “path of least resistance” for decision-makers choosing where to dump toxic waste or site-polluting industries. However, residents and civil rights activists in Warren County, North Carolina, Latino farm workers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, students in Houston, Texas, and other marginalized people across the country fought to protect their health and local environment. Those efforts help illuminate an extension of racism in America: people of color are disproportionately harmed by environmental degradation in the form of pollution and toxic chemical exposure.23 Environmental justice continued to gain prominence in the 1980s with the publication of studies showing the disproportionate environmental and health harms communities of color faced.4 Dr. Robert Bullard, known as the father of environmental justice, wrote, “whether by conscious design or institutional neglect, communities of color in urban ghettos, in rural ‘poverty pockets’, or on economically impoverished Native-American reservations face some of the worst environmental devastation in the nation.”5
Climate change is perhaps the largest existential threat to social justice around the world, because the negative impacts like flooding, drought, wildfires, and other extreme weather events, exacerbate existing social inequality and inequities. The climate justice movement emerged out of the need to address the harmful disparities of the impacts of climate change and recognize the responsibility of those who have contributed (and benefitted) the most from the pollution driving climate change.67
The 10-Point Plan
The 10 pillars were developed by the Anti-Racist Soccer Club board consisting of current and former professional soccer players, team ownership, and educational scholars with expertise in racial inequity and sport. They are actionable guidelines for clubs to implement anti-racist initiatives that fit specifically to their club. Joining the coalition requires an in-depth analysis of how a club is currently addressing these pillars and a plan for how it will holistically move forward with these points.
Invest resources into our communities to further diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Increase representation to reflect the community and sport in which we operate.
Educate our community about racism and anti-racist behaviors.
Support the protest or removal of the National Anthem.
Provide a platform for all players to speak openly and freely about social injustices and inequality.
Expand access to the sport and work towards equitable play.
Commit to actively working to end police brutality.
Pledge to increase support for Black-owned and Black-led organizations.
Partner with organizations that will support anti-racist efforts.
Make matches more accessible and more inviting to marginalized communities.
In the following pages, you will get a comprehensive analysis of the work that was done by both Vermont Green FC and the Anti-Racist Soccer Club to develop and implement a bespoke 10-point plan. The success of the club’s inaugural season is a testament to the time and resources the club put into planning and implementation. The analysis is intended to provide insight into how one club prioritized anti-racism in its competitive strategy, operations, and culture, and as a result, garnered widespread community support and engagement. The spirit of the beautiful game is a reflection of the diversity of people who love and play the sport the world over. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism can and should be important aspects of any soccer club’s DNA.
At the end of its inaugural season, Vermont Green FC partnered with Middlebury College researchers to conduct a fan engagement survey. The survey received >500 high-quality responses and analysis was done by the research team. The survey results are an important first step in helping the club assess its impact in the first season and plan for future improvements. The club was encouraged to learn the following insights:
Being intentional about building community pays off:
- 99% of respondents feel the club is an important part of the community.
Purpose beyond sport resonates (locally and online):
- 95% of respondents strongly/somewhat agreed that the club’s environmental justice mission is important to them.
- “Atmosphere” and “club values” were the top two reasons why respondents attended matches.
- 70% of fans strongly/somewhat agreed that VGFC helped them view environmental challenges and social justice as more interconnected.
We drew support from outside traditional sports fans:
- 67% of respondents did not regularly attend college, amateur, or professional soccer games.
- 14% of respondents were not a fan of any other soccer team.
Supporters want more from sports clubs:
- 96% of respondents wished more sports teams would take a public stand on climate change. Notably, the club publicly talked about climate change through the lens of climate justice.
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