Manchester United Turns Back To The Taps


Manchester United is aware that its status as one of the world’s leading sports organisations, brings significant responsibilities. As well as the 80,000 fans which it regularly accommodates, its Old Trafford ground is also the workplace for 500 staff. The club prides itself on its sustainability program, which recycles hundreds of tonnes of paper, plastic and cardboard annually. Their environment management team is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve the working environment within the venue as well as its green credentials.


A crucial aspect of the environmental management team’s remit is the provision of drinking water across each of the 20 departments of Old Trafford. The average water intake required for the 500 staff is between 750 – 1,000 litres per day. Traditionally, the ground relied on bottled water deliveries. However, in 2005 as part of a regular facilities review, this water provision method came under scrutiny.

With each of the ground’s 32 water units requiring around six replacements per month, bottled water represented a significant drain on the time of Michael’s staff and storage space. Michael O’Brien commented, “I was always receiving requests on the radio for a member of my team to replace water bottles.” As well as the extra lifting and maintenance imposed by this process, the environmental team examined the cost of the bottled water service. They discovered that many organisations where switching to filtered, chilled tap water, which was on average around 500 times cheaper than its bottled alternative.

The team discussed their situation with leading point-of-use water cooler provider, Greenworks advised them that switching to mains-fed water, would slash their water costs by around half, and eliminating the storage and manual labour needs of bottled water. Furthermore, the use of mains-fed water would also significantly reduce the club’s carbon footprint – by removing the associated “water miles” generated through the transportation of water bottles to and from the club and possible landfill for their disposal.


The benefits appealed to the environmental management team’s sustainability goals and bottom line, so they began auditing their water bottle use and expenditure. Sure enough, by switching to Greenworks' highly durable water coolers, which use infra-red technology for ease-of-use and filters to chill the water, the club could provide safe, chilled water in a cost and environmentally efficient manner. “Once we had done the figures it was a no-brainer for us. Turning to the taps just made sense from a cost and an efficiency perspective”, said Michael.

As with anything new, there was some initial trepidation from staff trialling the system. However, minds were quickly put to rest by the benefits of the new coolers, such as state-of-the-art “no-spill” filters and in-built UV systems which block and eliminate bacteria at the mains and at point-of-use. Michael O’Brien added, “Most of the staff didn’t notice that they were drinking mains-fed water. For the few that did, it was just a case of reminding them that the UK’s tap water is amongst the safest and purest in the world.”

In June 2005, after a successful trial phase, Manchester United signed a contract for the provision of 32 floor standing coolers across the estate. Once the existing water bottle units had been removed, the coast was clear for Greenworks installations. Michael said, “Greenworks Water were brilliant, very professional and they completed the installation in two days flat.”


Michael O’Brien said, “From a service perspective, Greenworks Solutions have been an absolute boon to work with. Their water coolers are made to a very high spec anyway, but every six months a Greenworks team services and sanitises them. If I get any problems, I only needed to call my contact at Greenworks and he sends a team around to fix it immediately.”

Based on the cost and labour savings, improvements to environmental efficiency and high service levels experienced with Greenworks, the club is highly likely to continue using mains-fed water ongoing. “We’re continually seeking to make improvements to the ground for staff and visitors, and the environmental at large. As a club, we’ve been delighted with Greenworks service, as well as their advice in ‘greening’ our provision of drinking water”, concludes Keith McIntosh, manager of Manchester United’s Health Safety & Environmental team.

Manchester Utd

Football & Stadium Management , April / May '08