New kind of artificial turf as an option in unfavourable climatic conditions
Pitches with artificial turf were actually never prohibited. In Law 1 of The Laws of the Game - The Field of Play, only the actual dimensions of the pitch are stipulated, as well as other details such as the markings on the pitch, the goals/goalposts, the corner flags, etc. There is no actual stipulation with respect to the nature of the turf.
Perhaps the FIFA directive that matches in the final tournament of FIFA competitions may be played only on natural turf has given the impression that artificial turf is prohibited. Consequently, natural turf was laid for the matches of the FIFA World Cup in the United States venues of Pontiac Silverdome, Detroit and in the Giants Stadium in New York/New Jersey. This directive will remain unchanged.
The past decades have brought technical progress in the development of new kinds of artificial turf and hybrids (natural turf mixed with artificial turf) which are of a much superior quality than those of earlier artificial varieties, especially as regards improvement in the bounce of the ball and the reduction of the possibility of players sustaining injuries.
In regions with extreme climatic conditions (e.g. desert areas, areas with constant sunshine or areas subject to cold, wet or tropical weather), the quality of the natural turf pitches is, in many instances, inferior. Frequently it is the result of the high demands made on such pitches, when they are few and far between and have to be used for national and international matches alike, and/or when there is no financial support for their expensive upkeep. As a result, the natural turf pitches frequently have to be closed for training or matches, and are often in such poor condition that the danger of injury because of the lack of turf, the unevenness and/or holes in the turf is much greater than the degree of danger on artificial turf.
In the framework of the Goal Project, which provides made-to-measure support, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has suggested to those National Associations in Asia (Palestine and Jordan) and Africa (Liberia) that have been selected for pilot projects, that artificial turf could be a suitable alternative, as the cost of installation and upkeep of such turf when used to its maximum capacity is much lower than that of natural turf in such conditions. At the end of January, under the auspices of the Goal Project, a relevant agreement was signed with the National Association of Liberia, thus allowing the installation of artificial turf in a stadium in Monrovia. Official international matches and matches of the preliminary rounds of FIFA competitions may be carried out on such turf. A hybrid turf, composed of approximately 80% natural turf and 20% artificial turf, has already been installed and used in Norway's national stadium in Oslo.
The owner/manager of a stadium may today choose to install artificial turf when the demand and the climatic conditions make a choice necessary.
The members of the FIFA Sports Medical Committee and the Technical Committee are closely observing developments in this area. The subject of this new generation of artificial turf will be dealt with in detail in a coming edition of the FIFA Magazine.