Katie Jarvis reviews Forest Green Rovers' new meat-free menu

Football is one of a distinguished range of subjects about which Katie Jarvis knows nothing. Who better to send, therefore, to report on a Forest Green Rovers match, and to review the club's new meat-free menu..

Katie Jarvis reviews Forest Green Rovers’ new meat-free menu

Football is one of a distinguished range of subjects about which Katie Jarvis knows nothing. Who better to send, therefore, to report on a Forest Green Rovers match, and to review the club’s new meat-free menu… (Answers on a recycled postcard, please)

I’m not overstating it when I say I know nothing about football. (Unless you can know less than nothing, in which case, I am overstating it.) So, on the frightening principle that I’ve been invited to a Forest Green Rovers match, I’ve dragged my brother and his sports-mad son – my 11-year-old nephew Freddie – along to explain the finer points to me.

“What’s that round thing everybody’s kicking around on the ground?” I ask. “It’s a falafel,” my brother explains. “Oh, yes,” I say, squinting. “So it is.” We’re stuffing ourselves, pre-match, and the table in front of us is simply laden with goodies. There are mushroom, swede, leek and ale pies and sun-burst multi-coloured salads; lemony tabboulehs, carrot and coriander wraps and teetering falafel burgers stacked with houmous, accompanied by fat chips. It’s the kind of food footballers must dream of...

Well, some footballers... OK, then, just ‘Bolo’ Zenden, maybe. (And that took some finding.) The point is that Forest Green Rovers is the first football club to go fully vegetarian – and not just in terms of the food it’s providing for players. Any visiting fans will find that greasy pork sausages and fatty meat pies are rarer than a sighting of Ian Hislop singing ‘We are FGR’ on the terraces.

It’s all part of FGR’s mission to be the greenest football club in Britain, an ambition of their chair, Dale Vince. He’s better known as the entrepreneur behind Ecotricity, which sells green electricity, particularly that generated by wind farms. “But what’s the connection between wind and vegetarian food?” I hear you ask. Well, how dare you.

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“It’s about making Forest Green as environmentally-friendly as possible,” Dale tells me, as we munch on food cooked by the chosen caterer, Relish in Cirencester. “People are starting to realise that vegetarian food isn’t just for weirdoes. It’s healthy, it can support sports people, and it’s a lot better for the planet.”

There are players wandering round, too; and it’s true that they’re not looking protein-deficient or being helped weakly into their seats by little old ladies. “Yeah,” says striker (whatever that is) Reece Styche. “It was pretty weird at first, not having meat. But it’s a mental thing – it doesn’t taste any different.”

Are they not afraid of visiting sides chanting, “You’re veggie and you know it”? The players shake their heads. They’ve possibly heard worse. And it is good veggie food. The burgers are OK but probably my least favourite. The crunchy fresh salads, tomato pizza (genuine stuff, not stodge), the badger pasty (not a possible solution to the farming crisis; it’s veggie, remember) and the polenta chips are excellent. I’m not sure about the fact that this menu is a mandate rather than a choice; but it’s still refreshing to see such a brave – and healthy – move. Whether, in 12 months’ time, middle-aged male fans will begin each match with a fish pedicure, meet on a Wednesday night at the health spa, and reassure each other that their bums don’t look big in this remains to be seen.

And so, as I finish munching on a superb almond cake with wild blackberries (as opposed to the runny cardamom tart), the match begins. As my brother selfishly disappears onto the cold terraces instead of watching through the window with me, I can tell you the following: the referee was rubbish (according to the man next to me); one player was terribly upset when he sustained a slightly hurty knee; the goalie appeared so horribly injured, I was pretty sure they were sending for a priest.

Miraculously (possibly because of the new diet) and Lazarus-like, he went from dead to playing again within seconds, once the other side had been told off. And at one point, the whole crowd shouted ‘Yes!’ I’m afraid I’ve absolutely no idea why. Nor am I entirely sure who won.

But did I enjoy it? I genuinely did. Was the food good? Yes (but we were at a tasting event and not a proper meal); and NB, it’s only available on match days. Nor does it seem bad value: a �5 bowl of the main course offered in the Carol Embrey Suite could be anything from a good chilli to a vegetable lasagne.

“Did you know,” my brother says on his return, “that ‘Forest Green Rovers’ is an exact anagram of ‘meat-free zone’?” “Amazing!” I say. Thank goodness I brought him with me.

Forest Green Rovers, The New Lawn, Another Way, Nailsworth GL6 0FG (GL6 0ET for sat navs)


Tel: 01453 834860; www.forestgreenroversfc.com

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