FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter is a supporter of artificial turf and believes that one day every country will convert to playing on synthetic surfaces. His sentiments have been endorsed by the German Sport University of Cologne, who reached the conclusion that "well maintained artificial turf has no measurable effect on the game."
This article appeared on 6 October 2009 in the daily newspaper 'Die Welt.'
Even FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has decided to get involved in the hotly-debated topic of artificial turf, after the German Sport University of Cologne published a report into the scientific study of synthetic pitches, which of course Germany must play on next Saturday in their crucial 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier against Russia. "The Russia-Germany game won't be decided by the pitch, but by the quality of the two teams," claimed researchers in Cologne. A-state-of-the-art artificial pitch has recently been installed at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The study, led by Dr. Wolfgang Potthast, concluded that "well-maintained artificial pitches have no measurable effect on the game." It was also discovered that data such as players' shots and crosses only differs from that of natural pitches if the artificial turf is of a poor quality: "With shooting it affects the standing leg, while with crossing it is the kicking leg which is affected more. Changing the surface causes a loss of accuracy and power," it said. Some players have complained of difficulties in "getting their foot under the ball", leading to fewer crosses and use of the flanks.
The results of the report have been supported by other studies and observations, as well as by world football's governing body, FIFA. Germany coach Joachim Low recently stated that artificial turf would be "no excuse" for a poor performance and made his players train on an artificial pitch in Mainz in order to get used to the surface.
President Blatter broke his silence on the topic on German television show 'Inside Sport' on Monday evening, saying that artificial turf is the "future of football," as well as claiming that "most countries around the world will play on artificial turf one day because it can be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Former Austrian footballer Gernot Zirngast of international players' union FIFPro was critical of the notion, asserting that qualification matches for major international tournaments should be played on grass: "It's beyond me that World Cup qualifiers are being played on artificial turf," said Zirngast. He also believes that a group of people from within the industry are doing their utmost to "promote artificial turf without any tangible arguments."
FIFA has developed a certification system for artificial pitches and issues certificates at a cost of around 300,000 euros for a period of three years. President Blatter has vehemently denied claims that his organisation would enforce a worldwide conversion to synthetic surfaces for financial gain. "That's nonsense," he said, before going on to argue the benefits of so-called 'plastic pitches', which are intended to provide a decent playing surface to countries where the climate dictates that a grass pitch is unsustainable.
According to Blatter, the revenue generated from the licensing of the pitches will be reinvested in FIFA's own development programmes. "We're not doing this to make money, but for the good of the game," he added.