Artificial turf - more and more natural

The introduction of artificial surfaces of the newest generation has narrowed the gap between artificial turf and natural grass. The proliferation of synthetic surfaces as training pitches at the world's biggest clubs such as Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter Milan confirms the resurgence of artificial turf of the newest generation as a playing surface to be considered seriously. 


Artificial surfaces are also beginning to take hold as competition fields at the highest levels of football. In fact, the first FIFA RECOMMENDED artificial turf installation was recognized in June of this year (Nickerson Field in Boston, USA - the home of the WUSA Boston Breakers). Furthermore, discussions are ongoing between football authorities in the Netherlands concerning the eventual installation of an artificial surface in the Amsterdam ArenA - home of Ajax and the national stadium of Holland. Clearly, we are moving forward into a new era of football surfaces that allow the game to be played in the same manner as on grass, without the need for special footwear or different tactics.

One of the most important aspects in the development of the FIFA Quality Concept for Artificial Turf was the development of technical criteria based upon the performance characteristics of natural grass under optimum conditions. Artificial surfaces that carry the FIFA RECOMMENDED mark should resemble natural grass not only in appearance but in playability as well. To this end ISA Sport , one of two recognized testing institutes authorized to perform laboratory and field-testing for the FIFA Quality Concept, has conducted a series of tests on natural grass pitches to further develop the standards for football pitches based on their sport's functional properties.

 

"Extensive research was carried out on 14 high quality natural grass pitches  of varying soil content and field conditions such as moisture grade of the field and the density of the grass", explains Mr. Franklin Versteeg, Head of Research and Development at ISA Sport. The following tests were carried out:

  • Vertical Deformation
  • Shock Absorbency
  • Traction (or Rotational Friction)
  • Vertical Ball Rebound
  • Angled Ball Behaviour
  • Ball Roll
  • Energy Restitution

All of these tests (except Energy Restitution, which is optional) are part of the FIFA Quality Concept. The tests were conducted according to the methods and descriptions in the FIFA Laboratory Testing Manual. Each test was carried out in six different field locations to cover both low and high impact areas of the pitch.

FIFA is pleased to announce that the average of all the results lay within the values assigned to the respective tests of the FIFA Quality Concept for Artificial Turf.

These results further confirm that we are in step with the development of standards for football pitches. The transition from natural grass to artificial turf of the newest generation should be as smooth as possible. From this work we can see that FIFA RECOMMENDED artificial turf installations closely resemble the conditions today's footballers experience on natural grass.

For a complete list of the research results please contact FIFA or ISA Sport directly.