Mastercard rallies fans to take sustainable action with new Pledge Ball ahead of UEFA Champions League Final

May 21, 2024

Today, Mastercard launches The Pledge Ball, a football made from recycled boots and engraved with pledges by the football community to inspire collective action on sustainability ahead of the UEFA Champions League final on 1 June. The ball features pledges from fans, clubs, players, sponsors, charities, supporter groups and UEFA Champions League Legend Gareth Bale.

Mastercard teamed up with British artist Helen Kirkum, famed for making art out of recycled shoes, to create the football. Preloved boots from children’s football charity Bloomsbury Football have been stitched together to create a patchwork for the planet, illustrating how individual pledges to take action on sustainability can add up to a much larger collective impact.

The Pledge Ball, created in celebration of Mastercard’s 30 years of sponsorship of the world’s greatest football club competition, was inspired by Mastercard’s work with sustainability and sports charity Pledgeball for Champions Innovate - UEFA’s inaugural programme for sponsors and start-ups to enhance the social and environmental impact of the 2024 Champions League Final’s and leave a lasting positive impact on the host city, London.

Five-time UEFA Champions League winner Gareth Bale is supporting the campaign and added his pledge to “drink plant-based milk alternatives” to the Pledge Ball. His former club Real Madrid faces Borussia Dortmund in the final at Wembley on Saturday 1 June.

At a Mastercard panel on the power of football to inspire change, Gareth Bale said: “I’ve been lucky enough to achieve my goals in football, score a few too, and think it’s important that we all try to set personal goals for the things that are important to us. It's why I’ve given my pledge to the Mastercard Pledge Ball, and I hope the 450 million fans set to watch the final next week are inspired to do the same. If football has a superpower, it’s teamwork, and I think that’s exactly what our planet needs a bit of right now.”

According to new research from Mastercard, four in five (80%) UK football fans say sustainability is important to them, and almost two thirds (61%) would like more help making sustainable choices. Most agree that teamwork is a big part of the answer, with 57% agreeing that football can inspire collective action on sustainability.

In the UK, the match-day actions fans would find easiest to adopt are switching to e-tickets (38%), using reusable cups (36%), avoiding single-use plastics at the stadium (33%), or travelling to the match using public transport (29%).

Pledgeball also suggests that if 90,000 people (the capacity of Wembley) reduced their shower time to five minutes, the emissions saved would be equivalent to permanently taking over 500 cars off the road. With an estimated 450 million football fans to watch the final next week, if even a portion of those watching opted to make a pledge, the CO2e saving would be considerable.

Pledges from across the football community were also added to Mastercard’s Pledge Ball:

  • The Priceless Planet Coalition, created by Mastercard with reforestation partners Conservation International and World Resources Institute, will restore 100m trees around the world – Mastercard
  • Drink plant-based milk alternatives – Gareth Bale
  • Develop a sustainability policy and campaign for all clubs to do the same – The Football Supporters Association
  • Switch pitch floodlights to 100% LED by August 2024 – Bristol City FC
  • Support circular solutions for football boots – Will Troost-Ekong
  • Use the power of football to unite us to take action to live more sustainably – Alexei Rojas
  • Rally the sports community to drive systemic change – Pledgeball
  • Support Football for Good organisations and their communities towards a just and inclusive climate transition – Common Goal
  • Raise awareness of football's climate concerns through our 'Football's Climate Conversation' podcast – 90Min
  • Use my platform to engage other athletes around climate change – David Wheeler
  • Find creative solutions to reuse our production off-cuts – Helen Kirkum Studio

Mastercard will donate The Pledge Ball to children’s charity Bloomsbury Football on 31 May at Somerset House to inspire the next generation of football and as a symbol of the power of collective action.

Beatrice Corncacchia, Executive Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Mastercard Europe, said: Football fans across Europe are proudly passionate of the game and its power to bring us together. The UEFA Champions League Final is the perfect moment to highlight the role we can all play, both big and small, in making positive change. Together, we can make a difference and inspire a lasting legacy for the next generation of football.”

Helen Kirkum, British artist, designer, and creator of The Pledge Ball commented: “I’m really happy to be part of this project with Mastercard. Football is a global sport watched by millions worldwide so I hope the Pledge Ball we have created acts as a catalyst for positive change. Crafting the ball using preloved football boots with so much livelihood, marks and memories, showcases the beauty and versatility of reusing materials. We engraved each pledge into the boot panels so they become ingrained in the story of the material and add to the legacy of its journey.”

Katie Cross, Founder of Pledgeball, added: “As the football community, we have the potential to drive change like nothing else. We all want clean air, stable food systems, green spaces and conditions that allow us to enjoy the game that we love, and making our voices heard through our words and actions can drive the rapid transition we need.

“This campaign and the fantastic collaboration with Mastercard has given us the opportunity to really illustrate this collective drive and potential power that football and its community has.”