THE world’s only vegan football club has beaten some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment to win a Menu of the Year award.

Forest Green Rovers are celebrating their big victory off the pitch, after winning the Sport and Leisure Catering Magazine accolade at a ceremony at BAFTA in London on Tuesday, September 13.

Forest Green were praised by the judges for their innovative approach to sustainability, which has seen them gradually remove all meat and dairy products from club menus over recent years, before becoming the world’s first vegan football club last season.

The club was nominated by long term partner Quorn Foods, and the award is recognition of the fantastic work done by the matchday kitchen, which is led by Nicolas Allan, the director of the Star Anise Café in Stroud, and head chef Em Franklin.

The club were up against strong competition for the award, in the shape of Grosvenor Casinos and the Tower of London, and rubbed shoulders with other winners on the night including Lord’s Cricket Ground, Cheltenham Racecourse, the Eden Project and the RAF Museum in London.

“Football and great food aren't two things normally associated with each other - but this is Stroud,” said Dale Vince, chairman of FGR.

“When we gave Star Anise the challenge to take FGR vegan we expected great things, because that’s what they do - but never thought we'd be winning awards.

“The best part of winning this national award is not that we’re a football club, special as that is - but that we did it with vegan food. Food that is sustainable in all senses of the word.”

Nicholas Allan, director of Star Anise Café, said: “This award has come out of a real collaboration with FGR and the Dale who has given us a platform to try something new and explore unknown territory for a football menu.

“The kitchen team does a great job and the menu has proved incredibly popular with fans, so big credit should go to our head chef Em, who has created a reasonably priced menu which is packed with top quality vegan food using the best local ingredients.”

Joe Bill, group editor at Sports & Leisure Catering Magazine, said that when he heard that the club had gone all-vegan at the end of last year, the team at the publication thought it was a really innovative move.

“It both addresses the issues that are arising in association with modern foodservice, while also taking a stance and demonstrating to the leisure industries how it can be combated,” he said.

“With catering partners Quorn, the menu items now available to general admission fans and to corporate hospitality guests are unlike at any other football club.”

The menu at Forest Green Rovers includes the specially produced Q-Pie, created with ingredients supplied by Quorn, as well as veggie burgers, Mexican fajitas, sweet potato burgers, chips, pizza and weekly specials.

Even the beer and cider on sale at FGR on matchdays is completely vegan, with the Cotswold Brewing Company offering popular vegan lager and cider from the bars at The New Lawn.

The vegan menu is the latest in a long line of sustainability measures at the club, which include the installation of solar panels, an organic pitch, and a solar-powered robot lawnmower.