29 May 2013

Should astro turf grass be used by football clubs?

The issue over artificial grass being used as football turf is a bit of a controversial one. There are various clubs in both England and Scotland which have used artificial turf in the past, including Luton Town, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers and Preston North End. However, the initial introduction of artificial lawns was met with some controversy, with some claiming that the grass was responsible for players’ collecting injuries. Inevitably, clubs were prohibited from using artificial grass from the late 1980’s.

However, times have changed. Clubs all over Europe are benefiting from improved technology in this area, and artificial turf has made a bit of a resurgence, particularly in Italy, France and Switzerland. We have also seen a significant number of clubs in the lower leagues of Scotland utilising artificial turf and the Football Association in England has also permitted use of the turf in less prominent English competitions, including the FA Trophy.

It’s also worth noting that new technology has also been approved by Fifa, which permits the use of artificial surfaces for Champions League ties, too.

The main reason clubs are so keen to reintroduce the artificial pitch revolves predominantly around revenue – clubs can see significant savings being made. For example, the pitch could obviously be utilised for many purposes as opposed to just hosting football matches. Players would also be able to train on the pitch and maintenance costs would be significantly lower. While it may not make all that much sense for top flight clubs to come on-board, the significant saving in expenditure (and cross-application) makes a lot of sense for smaller clubs.

One option which may be more likely to meet with cross-interest support, is the combination of a synthetic and grass playing field; however, the main issue with this approach again is maintenance cost, and only a few clubs actually adopt this approach.

Whether or not this ends up approved will depend largely on the response from clubs across the leagues – while the idea doesn’t generate much support in the top-flight leagues (and while some clubs in the Championship are reportedly concerned about the implications following promotion), it’s clear that it still maintains a base of support from clubs looking to create a more sustainable revenue source, independent from TV funds.

While artificial pitches have had their problems in the past, it looks as though new, developing technology could be the answer for many smaller clubs.

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