FIFA recently conducted its first ever FIFA Playing Surface Seminar, hosted in Auckland by the Oceania Football Confederation.

Representatives from all 11 of OFC’s Member Association’s were in attendance for the inaugural delivery of the three-day course conducted by Stuart Larman, manager of the FIFA Playing Surfaces Programme, OFC natural turf consultant Laurie Stubbing and FIFA artificial turf consultant Dr Eric Harrison.

FIFA have held various playing surface courses in other parts of the world, however last week’s seminar was a global first in that it presented artificial and natural turf maintenance content together in the same forum.

Larman says there is both a football and commercial benefit in maintaining pitches at their optimum level. “If you don’t have good playing surfaces you can’t develop good players and you don’t encourage people to play – it’s as simple as that,” he said. “And if you’re carrying out good maintenance then you get a longer life out of your facility.”

If you don’t have good playing surfaces you can’t develop good players and you don’t encourage people to play.

Stuart Larman, manager of the FIFA Playing Surfaces Programme

Also in attendance were delegates from the International Rugby Board. “We’ve made one of the (six) presentations with the International Rugby Board because they have a similar standard to us, their standard is in fact based on ours,” said Larman.

“We feel it’s important, especially in the Oceania region where both sports are strong, and in some cases rugby is a bit stronger, to make sure everyone is informed that there’s actually one standard for artificial turf.

“Obviously, the playing surface is critical to developing football in any country. Whether the goal is to develop the elite side of the game or grassroots football, the essential thing is to have a strategy in place and good playing surfaces.”

FIFA development officer for Oceania Glenn Turner was instrumental in bringing the seminar to this part of the world and Larman says there has already been strong interest from other confederations.

“We know of people who are really keen to do this so I’m sure there will be a strong demand,” he said. “We haven’t even pushed it yet, but once we start to promote the seminar I think people will respond quickly. It’s something we will definitely look to take around the world.”

The General Secretaries from almost all of OFC’s Member Associations attended the historic seminar and were largely accompanied by a groundsman or facilities manager from their respective countries.

Football Federation Samoa acting CEO Sarai Bareman says the seminar was extremely beneficial for the future development of pitch infrastructure in her homeland. “It was very helpful to see exactly what goes into maintaining a field and bringing it up to a good standard,” she said.

“As an administrator, I know all about running the office but, in terms of the fields and facilities, I have very little knowledge. That’s what I was hoping to get out of this course – to find out a bit more. Our groundsman is always talking to me about what we need so now I will have a better understanding of what he is saying.”