"The greenest jersey in the world!" That's how Michaël Schenk, the president of Wiltz football club, describes the shirt his players will wear next season in the BGL Ligue, the Luxembourg D1. "Actually, it's not really me saying it. It's just what the company that makes it calls it," he smiles.
The company in question is called PlayerLayer and has a reputation in the industry. And for good reason, it is the company that makes the Forest Green Rovers tunic, the benchmark in terms of ecological exemplarity in football. Although this team from the county of Gloucestershire (not far from Wales) only plays in League Two, i.e. the fourth tier of English football, it has been recognised by the all-powerful Fifa (the international federation) as being "the greenest club in the world". It is true that FGR, as it is known, has distinguished itself in recent years in a number of other ways, from the installation of solar panels, to the first certified organic lawn fed with cow dung, to the provision of vegan food, and the construction of a 5,000-seat stadium... all made of wood.
It is made of... coffee
What's so special about the jersey that FGR has already tested this season and that Wiltz will wear in a few weeks? Well, it's made from... coffee and recycled plastic bottles. A "sustainable" alliance that apparently allows for a more efficient sport than the "old generation" of ecological jerseys, which are only made of recycled plastic. Each of these shirts is now made from three cups of recycled coffee grounds and five bottles.
"We signed a sponsorship agreement with PlayerLayer (for a sum estimated at around €20,000, editor's note)", Michaël Schenk continues. "Thanks to this, this British firm 'offers' us our two sets of jerseys for the first team, i.e. about sixty pieces, but also the equipment for the training sessions. They are made of recycled plastic bottles.”
Bamboo shirts... for the fans
These revolutionary tunics are not the only purchases made by FC Wiltz 71 from PlayerLayer. As the club is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, a special shirt has been put on sale for the fans. And this one is... made of bamboo! It sells for about €70. "But for each of them, we will donate €5 to plant trees in Africa", continues Michaël Schenk, for whom these shirts are only a step in the direction his club wants to take.
In January, Wiltz put in place a nine-point plan to make the club more "green".
Michaël Schenk makes no secret of the fact that while there is a real ecological idea behind this project, there is also a dose of marketing. "The two are not incompatible," explains the president of a club that finished the season in seventh place in the Luxembourg football elite. "On the one hand, it is important to stand out from the other clubs, to become 'the most responsible club in the BGL League'. On the other hand, taking social responsibility is more important than ever.
For example, the Wiltz facilities are already trying to ban the use of commercially available water bottles. "We have installed water dispensers, connected to taps with filters. These are used with reusable bottles. We have also made an agreement with Volkswagen. At the beginning of next season, the three club cars will be electric", smiles Michaël Schenk. And in the future, Wiltz would also like to run on solar energy. So they are thinking about installing panels.
"The goal is to be ready in 2025," concludes Michaël Schenk. A deadline that the club would like to coincide with a participation in the European Cup. If they succeed, they would be close to becoming the greenest club ever to participate in a European competition.