0 Blatter, blather and bother?

Dave Saltman 3It's impossible not to comment on the growing allegations and investigation into FIFA but, suffice to say, it has been a long time coming.

As with any organisation, people in power and with access to money can become greedy, and it would be difficult to argue that this alleged abuse of power isn't endemic elsewhere in sport and other industries the world over.

One thing is clear to me; as our everyday life becomes more dependent on the internet and social media, it means more transparency and greater difficulty in hiding behind big corporate headquarters.

I'm sure that a great many people will now be fascinated with this ongoing news story and will wonder quite how deep the corruption travels down through the FIFA network.

From our industry perspective, the continual promotion of synthetic surfaces - remember that Blatter announced the 2010 World Cup in South Africa would be played on synthetics - begs the question as to how much money was 'invested' by the manufacturers to see their carpets installed? In the end, common sense prevailed but, as I write this foreword, the Women's World Cup is being played on synthetic pitches in Canada and that has brought about ill feeling and threats of litigation from players unhappy at being forced to play on them. As I watch the tournament highlights, it's interesting to hear the views of the commentators and pundits;

"Why should the women's game be forced to play on artificial turf in a World Cup? They wouldn't allow it for the men's tournament"; "Players' studs are getting caught in the surface"; "Too many knee injuries this early in the tournament"; "The ball is bobbling too much, it's almost as if the surface has not been laid correctly".

Bearing in mind this ongoing issue of the safety and suitability of synthetic surfaces, perhaps Greg Dyke and the FA should reconsider their quest to encourage our playing fields to be turned into housing estates and our youngsters to play on plastic.

On a different tack, and whilst I'm of a mind to air my thoughts, recent legislative changes and increased scrutiny on pesticides are impacting on our ability to control weeds, disease and pests within managed amenity turf, from either an effective control or budget perspective.

As an industry, we have been extremely poor in communicating and lobbying Government. Safe, responsible and professional chemical use is the key, and it is important we fight for the interests of professionals within the amenity sector.

The striking imbalance of withdrawals against innovation in recent years is testament to the increased red tape and R&D that companies have to adhere to and invest in concerning chemicals, and the knock-on effect will have an impact on the standard of playing surfaces in the future.

The correct products to achieve excellence must be available, otherwise I fear people will take advantage of what is already an under-resourced and weakly regulated area of Government law making and enforcing.

Currently, the Amenity Forum is the only representative body that lobbies on behalf of our sector. Within Europe, there are a number of excellent examples of better funded, more united lobbying, and it really needs a similar united stance of all interested parties within our industry to represent our sector.

Whilst the Amenity Forum does an excellent job of engaging the trade, the industry remains weak at communicating the views and concerns of end users. Pulling together on this topic is important and something our respective associations should, I believe, be paying far more attention to.

Dave Saltman

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