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Insight

In from the cold

We head to the edge of the Arctic Circle to find a club that’s showing the rest of the world how to win friends and football games

WORDS Dan Poole

Bodø/Glimt are a team that require some explanation. First of all, the name: Bodø is a city found just north of the Arctic Circle, a 16-hour drive from Oslo; Glimt means flash and was the club’s nickname when it was founded.

Then their recent achievements: they just won the national championship (the Eliteserien) for the first time in their 104-year history, recording the most wins, goals and points in a season in the process. That, in turn, earned them a spot in the Champions League first qualifying round and a plum tie against Poland’s Legia. Pretty flashy.

But Glimt would have seen the past few seasons as a success regardless of that title triumph – and a lot of that is down to what’s been happening away from the pitch. Specifically, their project that goes by the name of Action Now, which has been in place since 2019. It is based on the laudable aim of upholding the UN’s sustainability goals – of which there are 17 – throughout the club’s day-to-day existence. That doesn’t just mean reusable coffee cups and kits made out of recycled materials (though it does mean those things too), but rather a whole ethos of doing things differently – and better.

“It’s planet, people and profit,” says chief executive Frode Thomassen. “You have to work in all three of those dimensions. And it’s really fun to work like this, because we develop concepts with our business partners; it’s not just about how many minutes you are on television, or what kind of sign they can have on the stadium. We’re creating innovative partnerships that can be a part of developing sustainable solutions, and with sponsors who traditionally wouldn’t get involved with the club.”

The Aspmyra Stadion – home of Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt (above); The new ocean-friendly away kit (top right); Only a limited number of fans have been able attend games during the pandemic

Thomassen and his team aren’t shy about admitting that they have made profit from this environmentally motivated venture; in fact, they suggest that that’s the whole point. Rather than a response to climate change having to come at a cost, their efforts show that awareness and, yes, action can also contribute to a sustainable business model. “We’re trying to change the mindset of people in business,” he says.

The notion appears to be catching on. “We were surprised ourselves – we’ve unlocked something we did not expect to be this big,” says marketing and communications coordinator Benedicte Halvorsen. “We have taken calls from big clubs in Norway but also the United Kingdom, Australia – all over the world – asking about our work. We also went to the World Economic Forum in Davos last year to talk about it.”

Thomassen adds that while this is an initiative that has been undertaken in a city numbering 50,000 people, there’s no reason why it can’t be scaled up. “What we have developed is like a toolkit, so it can be actioned in the local community but also regionally, nationally or globally. The main issue is that you remain trustworthy: you must walk the talk, you can’t just make it a greenwashing thing. There have to be commitments that go into this type of model. Football is our core business of course, but it’s how the club operates within society that’s the biggest issue.”

Halvorsen explains some of the things that Glimt have been doing in Bodø on that score. “This club has always played a special role in the community, going back to the 1960s when we first played in the Norwegian league,” she says. “We have worked hard on making our campaign approachable, as the messages are so universal.

“WE LAUNCHED AN AWAY KIT TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE OCEAN; WE’VE NEVER HAD ONE SELL SO WELL”

“For example, this year we launched an away kit to raise awareness of the ocean, and we have never had an away kit sell so well. We hire former drug addicts to work at the club and we host tournaments for children; we would love to set up football schools too. This town has seen a rise in troubled youth not having a home as a result of the pandemic, so we’ve been looking to see what we can do to help – being an arena for people to meet up again.”

Thomassen takes that idea of making connections to a metaphorical level, making it clear that Glimt can’t – and aren’t intending – to do this by themselves, but are happy to start the conversation. “I’m not an expert, I’m just the CEO of a football club,” he says. “But it’s inspiring to see how the club can be a kind of meeting place, and platform, for future sustainable solutions. There’s a change going on at the moment: there’s this post-pandemic era now, where you have big clubs that are struggling financially. You saw the Super League and how fans’ passion came through against that. So I think clubs have to be really rooted in their community; the way we are running clubs has to be relevant and important to impact society. We can’t just run away with big economic gain; it’s about having a solid platform when it comes to hard times.”

It would seem there’s a bright outlook for football and the role it can play, emanating from a part of the world where the sun doesn’t even shine in deepest winter. “The mentality of the first team is to talk about development, not results,” says Halvorsen, suggesting that the thinking behind Action Now is along the same lines. Thomassen concurs. “Our sporting success is down to a new way of thinking: we are a small club with a small budget, but we try to be innovative. It’s about how we can do better tomorrow than we did yesterday.”  

Bodø/Glimt are a team that require some explanation. First of all, the name: Bodø is a city found just north of the Arctic Circle, a 16-hour drive from Oslo; Glimt means flash and was the club’s nickname when it was founded.

Then their recent achievements: they just won the national championship (the Eliteserien) for the first time in their 104-year history, recording the most wins, goals and points in a season in the process. That, in turn, earned them a spot in the Champions League first qualifying round and a plum tie against Poland’s Legia. Pretty flashy.

But Glimt would have seen the past few seasons as a success regardless of that title triumph – and a lot of that is down to what’s been happening away from the pitch. Specifically, their project that goes by the name of Action Now, which has been in place since 2019. It is based on the laudable aim of upholding the UN’s sustainability goals – of which there are 17 – throughout the club’s day-to-day existence. That doesn’t just mean reusable coffee cups and kits made out of recycled materials (though it does mean those things too), but rather a whole ethos of doing things differently – and better.

“It’s planet, people and profit,” says chief executive Frode Thomassen. “You have to work in all three of those dimensions. And it’s really fun to work like this, because we develop concepts with our business partners; it’s not just about how many minutes you are on television, or what kind of sign they can have on the stadium. We’re creating innovative partnerships that can be a part of developing sustainable solutions, and with sponsors who traditionally wouldn’t get involved with the club.”

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The Aspmyra Stadion – home of Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt (above); The new ocean-friendly away kit (top right); Only a limited number of fans have been able attend games during the pandemic

Thomassen and his team aren’t shy about admitting that they have made profit from this environmentally motivated venture; in fact, they suggest that that’s the whole point. Rather than a response to climate change having to come at a cost, their efforts show that awareness and, yes, action can also contribute to a sustainable business model. “We’re trying to change the mindset of people in business,” he says.

The notion appears to be catching on. “We were surprised ourselves – we’ve unlocked something we did not expect to be this big,” says marketing and communications coordinator Benedicte Halvorsen. “We have taken calls from big clubs in Norway but also the United Kingdom, Australia – all over the world – asking about our work. We also went to the World Economic Forum in Davos last year to talk about it.”

Thomassen adds that while this is an initiative that has been undertaken in a city numbering 50,000 people, there’s no reason why it can’t be scaled up. “What we have developed is like a toolkit, so it can be actioned in the local community but also regionally, nationally or globally. The main issue is that you remain trustworthy: you must walk the talk, you can’t just make it a greenwashing thing. There have to be commitments that go into this type of model. Football is our core business of course, but it’s how the club operates within society that’s the biggest issue.”

Halvorsen explains some of the things that Glimt have been doing in Bodø on that score. “This club has always played a special role in the community, going back to the 1960s when we first played in the Norwegian league,” she says. “We have worked hard on making our campaign approachable, as the messages are so universal.

“WE LAUNCHED AN AWAY KIT TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE OCEAN; WE’VE NEVER HAD ONE SELL SO WELL”

“For example, this year we launched an away kit to raise awareness of the ocean, and we have never had an away kit sell so well. We hire former drug addicts to work at the club and we host tournaments for children; we would love to set up football schools too. This town has seen a rise in troubled youth not having a home as a result of the pandemic, so we’ve been looking to see what we can do to help – being an arena for people to meet up again.”

Thomassen takes that idea of making connections to a metaphorical level, making it clear that Glimt can’t – and aren’t intending – to do this by themselves, but are happy to start the conversation. “I’m not an expert, I’m just the CEO of a football club,” he says. “But it’s inspiring to see how the club can be a kind of meeting place, and platform, for future sustainable solutions. There’s a change going on at the moment: there’s this post-pandemic era now, where you have big clubs that are struggling financially. You saw the Super League and how fans’ passion came through against that. So I think clubs have to be really rooted in their community; the way we are running clubs has to be relevant and important to impact society. We can’t just run away with big economic gain; it’s about having a solid platform when it comes to hard times.”

It would seem there’s a bright outlook for football and the role it can play, emanating from a part of the world where the sun doesn’t even shine in deepest winter. “The mentality of the first team is to talk about development, not results,” says Halvorsen, suggesting that the thinking behind Action Now is along the same lines. Thomassen concurs. “Our sporting success is down to a new way of thinking: we are a small club with a small budget, but we try to be innovative. It’s about how we can do better tomorrow than we did yesterday.”  

Bodø/Glimt are a team that require some explanation. First of all, the name: Bodø is a city found just north of the Arctic Circle, a 16-hour drive from Oslo; Glimt means flash and was the club’s nickname when it was founded.

Then their recent achievements: they just won the national championship (the Eliteserien) for the first time in their 104-year history, recording the most wins, goals and points in a season in the process. That, in turn, earned them a spot in the Champions League first qualifying round and a plum tie against Poland’s Legia. Pretty flashy.

But Glimt would have seen the past few seasons as a success regardless of that title triumph – and a lot of that is down to what’s been happening away from the pitch. Specifically, their project that goes by the name of Action Now, which has been in place since 2019. It is based on the laudable aim of upholding the UN’s sustainability goals – of which there are 17 – throughout the club’s day-to-day existence. That doesn’t just mean reusable coffee cups and kits made out of recycled materials (though it does mean those things too), but rather a whole ethos of doing things differently – and better.

“It’s planet, people and profit,” says chief executive Frode Thomassen. “You have to work in all three of those dimensions. And it’s really fun to work like this, because we develop concepts with our business partners; it’s not just about how many minutes you are on television, or what kind of sign they can have on the stadium. We’re creating innovative partnerships that can be a part of developing sustainable solutions, and with sponsors who traditionally wouldn’t get involved with the club.”

The Aspmyra Stadion – home of Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt (above); The new ocean-friendly away kit (top right); Only a limited number of fans have been able attend games during the pandemic

Thomassen and his team aren’t shy about admitting that they have made profit from this environmentally motivated venture; in fact, they suggest that that’s the whole point. Rather than a response to climate change having to come at a cost, their efforts show that awareness and, yes, action can also contribute to a sustainable business model. “We’re trying to change the mindset of people in business,” he says.

The notion appears to be catching on. “We were surprised ourselves – we’ve unlocked something we did not expect to be this big,” says marketing and communications coordinator Benedicte Halvorsen. “We have taken calls from big clubs in Norway but also the United Kingdom, Australia – all over the world – asking about our work. We also went to the World Economic Forum in Davos last year to talk about it.”

Thomassen adds that while this is an initiative that has been undertaken in a city numbering 50,000 people, there’s no reason why it can’t be scaled up. “What we have developed is like a toolkit, so it can be actioned in the local community but also regionally, nationally or globally. The main issue is that you remain trustworthy: you must walk the talk, you can’t just make it a greenwashing thing. There have to be commitments that go into this type of model. Football is our core business of course, but it’s how the club operates within society that’s the biggest issue.”

Halvorsen explains some of the things that Glimt have been doing in Bodø on that score. “This club has always played a special role in the community, going back to the 1960s when we first played in the Norwegian league,” she says. “We have worked hard on making our campaign approachable, as the messages are so universal.

“WE LAUNCHED AN AWAY KIT TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE OCEAN; WE’VE NEVER HAD ONE SELL SO WELL”

“For example, this year we launched an away kit to raise awareness of the ocean, and we have never had an away kit sell so well. We hire former drug addicts to work at the club and we host tournaments for children; we would love to set up football schools too. This town has seen a rise in troubled youth not having a home as a result of the pandemic, so we’ve been looking to see what we can do to help – being an arena for people to meet up again.”

Thomassen takes that idea of making connections to a metaphorical level, making it clear that Glimt can’t – and aren’t intending – to do this by themselves, but are happy to start the conversation. “I’m not an expert, I’m just the CEO of a football club,” he says. “But it’s inspiring to see how the club can be a kind of meeting place, and platform, for future sustainable solutions. There’s a change going on at the moment: there’s this post-pandemic era now, where you have big clubs that are struggling financially. You saw the Super League and how fans’ passion came through against that. So I think clubs have to be really rooted in their community; the way we are running clubs has to be relevant and important to impact society. We can’t just run away with big economic gain; it’s about having a solid platform when it comes to hard times.”

It would seem there’s a bright outlook for football and the role it can play, emanating from a part of the world where the sun doesn’t even shine in deepest winter. “The mentality of the first team is to talk about development, not results,” says Halvorsen, suggesting that the thinking behind Action Now is along the same lines. Thomassen concurs. “Our sporting success is down to a new way of thinking: we are a small club with a small budget, but we try to be innovative. It’s about how we can do better tomorrow than we did yesterday.”  

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