Michael Doughty GFX Climate Change GOAL

'You don't have to be Greta Thunberg' - Premier League stars urged to join Bamford in climate change battle

Sustainable sportswear brand co-founder and ex-footballer Michael Doughty has urged players to be open to conversations around climate change advocacy.

Doughty's brand Hylo has signed Patrick Bamford as an ambassador and he is a proud voice in advocating for environmental issues. Indeed, the Leeds United striker's lightning bolt goal celebration is dedicated to that very fight.

However, few other Premier League stars have followed the England international's lead in discussing the subject publicly. 

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Doughty, who played in the Premier League for Queens Park Rangers, thinks that footballers worry about being shot down unless they are near-perfect ambassadors like world famous environmental activist Greta Thunberg. 

"One difficult thing is how do you create a movement against climate change, which is effectively a very slow and painful death?" Doughty says to GOAL

"If I was going to say 50 or 60 years in the future that you are going to be in trouble, it is hard to galvanise around that, but the reality is that climate change is already affecting football. 

"We see more cancellations for rain than ever due to increased rainfall. One way of doing it is to make it more relevant today.

"It also can feel so scientific and technical. It’s about how I explain that in a simple way that resonates. We all need to do a better job to explain the core issues. 

"We also need to make it a less polarised conversation. We have Greta Thunberg, who is an amazing shining light for the world. But if you look at her as the pillar of conversation, you can feel like you are not good enough. 

"You might go on lots of flights to matches or use the wrong products sometimes. This is the hard part for footballers who get shot at for putting their head above the parapet. They should be allowed to talk incrementally about it. 

"I am not perfect, no product is perfect, we can’t have unattainable standards."

Footballers have been increasingly willing to speak up on political or controversial issues and, like Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Megan Rapinoe, Bamford is in that category. 

"I remember when I had my media training in football, it was about saying the least amount possible," Doughty says. "Since the pandemic, people want players to have more of an opinion and be authentic. 

"It is inspiring and having Patrick Bamford support us is brilliant. It works because he believes what he is saying and thinks about what he endorses.

"When we talk about racism, we know it is bad, but climate change is not as easy to get behind. With that in mind, we shouldn’t shoot people down when they talk about it." 

For Doughty, launching Hylo has been every bit as important as his football career. He took early retirement at 29 despite being one of the highest-paid players at League One side Swindon Town. 

After coming through Chelsea's famous Cobham academy as a schoolboy, he joined QPR, for whom he would play in the top two divisions.

It is always a remarkable decision to leave football by choice for any other job. 

"I could have played for big clubs like Sunderland, Derby County and Ipswich had I stayed on. I had a lot more years in me and had a good contract," Doughty adds. 

"It was during the pandemic when I decided to quit. I had this opportunity to work on Hylo and the crowds wouldn't be full. I was really passionate about this project and wanted to do it. 

"I also realised that, at best, I could become a lower-level Championship player. Yet, I went into football to be like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. 

"I was never going to be that. In this business, I have no ceiling and can become like a Messi or Ronaldo."

An early sign of the high standards came for Doughty by training alongside Raheem Sterling at QPR: "I played with Raheem Sterling even though he was a lot younger than me.

"He was 12 or 13 playing up several age groups. It was so clear from that day that he was going to be a superstar. 

"Raheem went on to be that but I was not that. I had to fight to be a professional. Even if you want to go pro, you really need to be in the top three players in the youth team. 

"For me, at QPR, I was never even that until I was 17 and I got scoring goals for the youth team regularly from midfield."

Patrick Bamford GFX Getty Images

One way in which fashion and sportswear is similar to football is that it is a fiercely competitive industry. 

Not only is it creative, but it is lucrative too. Brands like Adidas and Nike sign thousands of athletes in multiple sports and dominate the market that Hylo sits within. 

For Doughty, he doesn't want to disrespect or replace any of those huge brands. He does, however, want Hylo's ethos to influence sport in general. 

"There’s a tribalism in a dressing room based on what you endorse," he continues. "If you wear a Nike t-shirt with adidas shorts, you get laughed out of the room. 

"There’s a sense of identity in choosing a brand. It isn’t about choosing Hylo but it is if it aligns with who you are and what you believe.

"We can all do more and collaborate. It isn’t about shooting down other brands, it is about allowing athletes to perform amazingly but not negatively impact the world. If all brands do that, then the outcome is much better. 

"Hylo is only a small brand, if the bigger brands want to ask us questions or want to help us then that’s better. I don’t want to own sustainability or sportswear, I am just passionate about having a positive impact.

"In the end, this is an existential crisis that impacts everyone."