There is no difference between artificial turf and natural turf

Benefits of Football turf

Artificial turf lasts 14 times longer

The 19 Mayıs stadium in Ankara, which endured considerable criticism last season, installed artificial turf at the start of the new season. The complaint this time around was that there is an increased risk of injury on artificial turf. SABAH put an end to the artificial turf discussion in Turkey after talking with two representatives from FIFA, the leading authority in this area.

Nigel Fletcher, the man at the head of the artificial turf programme at FIFA and Eric Harrison, FIFA’s consultant in this area, visited SABAH and answered a number of questions. Artificial turf has acquired a negative reputation in Turkey due to problems that have occurred on the carpeted fields. To what extent does artificial turf compare to natural turf in professional football?

The statistics are the sam

Eric Harrison: In the 70s and 80s, injuries were a serious issue. The development of technology in many areas has also had an effect on artificial turf. Nowadays, the third generation of products perform almost equally as well as good natural turf. As part of a performance analysis of team sports, the specialised organisation ProZone studied 100 matches, including the Champions League, UEFA Cup, Dutch First Division and 2007 World Cup for Under-20. All players and ball movements were measured using 10 sensors. The results were absolutely conclusive: “The technical data obtained on the high-quality natural turf and artificial turf showed no demonstrable difference.” The data on the time in which the ball was in play, the number of times the players played the ball, the assist percentage, averages and all other data are very similar. Another study was conducted on injuries in matches in Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Russia. This study was carried out in 2003 and entailed the analysis of more than 600 thousand match hours. Again, no significant differences emerged. Years ago, I watched the World Cup for under-15 teams. Two of the fields were natural turf, while the third was artificial turf. After the matches on artificial turf, the players complained that their feet got overheated.

Pre existing biases must be tackled

Harrison: The black rubber used for artificial turf used to heat up quickly. But that problem no longer exists.

The football players must be satisfied with the field first and foremost. What about the return of the players in the studies?

Nigel Fletcher: Football players who have played on natural grass for many years are often the most negative towards artificial turf. This is something that must be combated by all responsible parties and managers of the teams. If they have a positive attitude, the players will be less negative towards artificial turf and performance will improve. The results of the interviews with the players can be summarised as follows: Players who have never played on artificial turf before walk onto the field with a negative attitude, but become more positive after playing. You do not use the term ‘artificial turf’. (During the report, the two managers do not speak of ‘artificial turf’ but ‘football turf’). And you refer to ‘natural grass’ as ‘good natural turf’ or ‘high-quality natural turf’. Why?

It is not a substitute but an alternative!

Fletcher: The term ‘artificial turf’ conveys the fact that the grass is not natural, thereby creating a negative influence on opinion. FIFA uses the terms ‘football turf’ and ‘good natural turf’. But good natural turf is comparable to football turf. FIFA does not consider football turf a substitute but rather an alternative to natural turf.

How do you differentiate?

Harrison: FIFA has developed a “Quality Concept for Football Turf ” to ensure that playing fields are produced that fully meet the needs of players. Artificial turf fields of the best quality with the highest technical standards are allowed to bear the Recommended Mark for products endorsed by FIFA. A two-star FIFA field is suitable for matches at the highest level, from qualifying matches for the World Cup to Champions League matches. The IFAB also approved the FIFA Quality Concept in 2004. Laboratory tests are conducted to measure the playability criteria, durability, wear and tear, damage and resistance to various climates of the field. The turfs that pass these tests can be used on playing fields. The fields are then further tested by the Institute for Field Research. Fields that pass through both phases successfully can apply for the Recommended Mark for products endorsed by FIFA.