(Reuters) - Air travel by the top 20 footballers nominated for the 2019 Ballon d'Or was responsible for producing 505 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions this year alone, according to a climate change researcher.
Andrew Welfle, from Britain's University of Manchester, said soccer bodies and teams must combat climate change by curbing air travel and finding alternative methods for their frequent flier players to reduce CO2 emissions.
Non-European players travelling far for international matches racked up most air miles, with Brazil's Marquinhos (110,787 km) and Roberto Firmino (97,907 km) and South Korea's Son Heung-min (88,289 km) the top three, his research showed.
Paris St Germain's Marquinhos alone accounted for 53.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions, while Ballon d'Or hopefuls Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Virgil Van Dijk of Liverpool were responsible for 20.9 tonnes and 16.5 tonnes respectively.
Forty tonnes of CO2 emissions is the equivalent of burning approximately 44,000 pounds of coal, the study said.
"The nature of the football sector where teams regularly travel great distances for fixtures, in addition to having international playing staff and managers who frequently fly... is a recipe for a high carbon footprint," Welfle said.
Global soccer body FIFA, England's Premier League and individual clubs would take remedial action if a light was shone on their carbon footprint, he added.
The study highlighted the damage caused by private jets, but did not say how much of the players' carbon footprint was for individual or team travel.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)