The first artificial turf models were designed in the 1960s and 70s for use in sports halls. Since then, artificial turf has undergone major development and is used in many football stadiums and pitches around the world. The third generation of artificial turf currently in use almost perfectly simulates natural grass. The introduction of the new 2014 standard, which includes improved test methods and criteria, will mark the start of a new era in the development of football turf.
Artificial turf has been around for decades now, but it only came to public attention in the mid-1960s, when it was installed in the Astrodome baseball stadium in Houston, Texas. Since then, the area of artificial turf has developed in many ways, and the advantages of an artificial pitch have been recognised in football, too.
The benefits are obvious. Artificial turf pitches are playable seven days a week – even in bad weather – and they require considerably less maintenance than natural turf. It therefore comes as no surprise that the use of football turf is on the increase in both professional and amateur football, by national, regional and local sports clubs and universities. Football turf offers the perfect alternative in regions where the climate makes it difficult to grow natural grass or water restrictions are in place.
Extensive tests ensure improved playing comfort
FIFA began implementing quality assurance measures for football turf in 2001, and since then has played an important role in its continuous improvement and further development. At the centre of FIFA’s activities is the “FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf”, which safeguards the highest quality standards and ensures football can be played on first-class pitches through the “FIFA RECOMMENDED” quality mark.
The fact that playing conditions on football turf are now comparable with natural grass in top condition is down to the extensive laboratory and field tests football turf must undergo. In addition, there are regular checks and further development as well as research into the product and how to install and maintain it.
Comprehensive tests ensure that football turf meets the same requirements as natural grass in top condition and is therefore of the very highest quality. To improve these standards even further, intensive research with universities, test institutes and other sports organisations is incorporated into the process.
FIFA ushers in a new era in the development of football turf
Demand has grown steadily since football turf was introduced into the Laws of the Game in 2004, and FIFA’s standards have ensured that the level of playing comfort has improved continuously. But the development of artificial playing surfaces is far from complete, and despite considerable improvements, coaches and players still have their reservations.
FIFA’s future research will focus more on the needs and perceptions of players and coaches, and as of 2014 these will be incorporated into the requirements for football turf. New test methods are expected to examine the effects of the playing surface on the incidence of injuries and whether players tire more quickly when playing on football turf. Research will also look at players’ ability to adapt to different playing surfaces as well as shooting technique, sprints, jumps and quick turns.
The new 2014 standard will therefore mark another milestone in the development of football turf that will ensure that the installations of the future are better developed, more adaptable and “greener” or more sustainable. The focus will be on advanced technologies, improved test methods and extensive field tests. We have set our course for the future.