Decreasing the high volume of chartered flights is important. What can we expect?
By Jonny Amon, Calling the Audible
At the beginning of last year’s season, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and then team’s manager Christophe Galtier sat on stage at a press conference. After answering a few questions related to their most recent match, the duo were asked a question they clearly were not expecting.
Leading up to their most recent fixture against FC Nantes, the team’s social media accounts posted a video of the players boarding a chartered flight. Nantes, which is roughly 236 mile trip from France’s capital, is well connected by high speed trains. The social media team likely did not consider how this post would be received, and it raised questions about professional team’s use of private flights in France.
When this question was posed to duo partaking in the press conference, the reaction could be categorized as, at best, dismissive. Mbappe burst into laughter, unable to believe that a journalist would question the team’s transportation method. Galtier, who had just begun managing the team a few months prior, smugly made a comment about speaking with the logistics team about changing their transportation to “sand yachts”. Mbappe included that he had no opinion about the question.
The reaction immediately drew a rebuke from French officials. Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, tweeted out the video. Her caption, “No, but it’s not okay to answer stuff like this???? Wake up guys???? This is Paris” echoed clear confusion about the condescending manner that the PSG personnel answered the question. Other journalists and public officials shared similar sentiments, imploring the two, and other professional athletes, to consider more thoughtful responses in the wake of the climate crisis.
The practice of using private flights, the question posed by the journalist, and the reaction from Mbappe and Galtier spurred policy action. France’s green party, Europe Écologie les Verts, or “The Greens”, led by Guillaume Gontard, used the moment to introduce a “PSG” bill, an action that would ban private jet flights to locations less than 150 minutes by train. Because private flights are one of the highest polluting actions individuals or groups can take, this bill seeks to reduce the climate impact that professional teams might be able to incur.
However, professional teams show little interest in following suit and using group transportation for domestic travel. Last week, Catalan manager Pep Guardiola, currently leading Manchester City, complained that, “We cannot get a plane” and would need to drive back on a bus to Manchester, following a match against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup. The complaint came from a concern that his athletes would have less time to recover amidst a challenging schedule.
Guardiola, the greatest manager of this generation, is used to all of the luxuries. Before his time at City, he coached at FC Bayern, the powerhouse of the German Bundesliga. Prior to that stint, he fashioned his world class pedigree at arguably the world’s most famous team, FC Barcelona. The coaches of these mega teams, such as City and PSG, wield extra influence on how the game is played, and the expectations of their organizations. If Guardiola is complaining publicly about not flying on a private flight, one can imagine the pressure he is putting on the club behind the scene.
However, for substantive change to take place, these managers will have to be more considerate about the long term effects of their statements. Truthfully, it is unlikely that elite managers that have been afforded every professional luxury over the course of a long career would change their tune. However, climate in sports needs a leader, and the first manager to push for legitimate change will be recognized for their courage. One can only hope the sports world finds this leader in a shorter time frame than it has taken PSG to finally win a Champions League trophy.
Jonny Amon is a lifelong sports fan from Daytona Beach, Fla. In college at Georgetown University, he wrote about both college and professional sports for the Georgetown Voice, the school newsmagazine. Having recently graduated with a Master’s in sustainability, Jonny is now writing a newsletter about the intersection of sports and climate, looking to highlight the increasing overlap between the two topics.