Last updated : 01 December 2006 By Ed
A bizare piece from Wednesday's Times.

Never mind trying to employ technology to see if the ball has crossed the line — what about developing a way of using footballers to combat climate change?

A scientist has investigated the average energy output for a professional player and found that, over a season, the likes of Wayne Rooney could power a house for ten days. And you thought “electric pace” was a metaphor.

Dr David James, from Sheffield Hallam University, was asked to produce a figure by the E.ON Energy Experience initiative. He looked at a player's oxygen uptake and the ratio of low to high intensity work. Players make more than 1,000 changes in activity over 90 minutes — altering their speed of movement every four to six seconds — and they cover ten to 12 kilometres, sprinting more than 2km.

James concluded that players produce 6,700 kilojoules, which equates to 1.86 kilowatt hours. If it were possible to convert that energy into electricity, over a full game Rooney could light an average house for 90 minutes, run a television for 6½ hours and boil enough water for the Manchester United match-day squad to enjoy a half-time cuppa.

A solar panel could generate 1,000kWh per year but is less effective in winter — which is when Rooney tends to operate, and with the added bonus of the World Cup and European Championship every two summers, he could provide year-round supply. The striker exudes enough energy in a match to power Sir Alex Ferguson's hairdryer — the real one — for two hours.

It all suggests that footballers are a great untapped resource in the fight to conserve energy and save the planet, if only they could be wired up to the National Grid. Why do reserve teams sit in the stands every Saturday when they could be underneath the stadium on treadmills producing energy to power the floodlights?

Over a season, the 4,000 members of the Professional Footballers' Association would produce enough energy to power the houses of the population of King's Lynn for a day. And just imagine the savings on heating costs if the hot air talked by José Mourinho could be harnessed. Football should follow the responsible lead of Arsenal, who decided in the summer that Cole was no longer economical to fuel the left side of their defence.

Admittedly, since Rooney has just signed a new contract worth an estimated £100,000 a week, even when taking into account the rising cost of energy bills, he offers less value for money than the ordinary supplier. Not to mention his £30 million installation fee. There is another problem. The average carbon footprint is ten tonnes per person per year. It is not known whether Rooney leaves his televisions on standby, but while others car-share, Rooney must decide which of his fleet of high-powered models to use, in contrast to the Ford Ka of his teenage years, while the utility bills for his £4 million Cheshire mansion will be considerably higher than for the council house of his youth.

The Government recommends cutting back by using public transport — unlikely to appeal — and not flying, which is hardly practical for a man with Champions League and international commitments. So when comparing Rooney's carbon footprint — or bootprint — to the amount of electricity he can generate, sadly, as an energy source he would be about 30,000 times less environmentally friendly than a nuclear power station. Still, at least referees are the only victims when he explodes.