Groundsmanship - a Future?
More than 12 months ago Pitchcare highlighted the issue of synthetic surfaces being given priority over natural turf by world Sports Governing Bodies such as FIFA.
In March 2003, at the inaugural Sports Turf Summit in Amsterdam hosted by Stadia magazine, the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, made a point of saying that due to the enclosed nature of many of the new stadia, the game had to consider the possibility of a re-introduction of synthetic playing surfaces.
He said, "I am confident that the synthetic industry will be able to provide one decent product for future football needs. Football is a traditional game that did not like change and that change is inevitably always slow, but football is the most popular game on the planet and has survived, despite intense media pressure for the last hundred years."
He said that FIFA would continue to push forward in research and development of artificial turf and added that they would be fully committed to cooperating with all members of the football family.
Ernie Walker, president of UEFA's stadium and security committee, was also one of the key speakers. " I believe we are on the threshold of dramatic change," said Walker, who believes UEFA Champions League games could be held on synthetic pitches within three years. "I hate seeing matches played on swimming baths and skating rinks. People talk about the standards of artificial turf but once the football bodies give the green light, sales are going to rocket. There's a dam out there waiting to burst."
Both FIFA and UEFA have been spearheading their own development programmes for the use of artificial grass. Six European clubs have bee trialling third generation synthetic pitches, with a decision to be made this summer on whether UEFA competition matches can be played on artificial turf from season 2005/6.
As recently as last week, at the IOG conference in Dublin, Support in Sport's George Mullan gave a further warning of the growth and support for Third Generation synthetic pitches. " The industry is sleeping" he told delegates, "3G companies are knocking at your club's door".
The debate is not about synthetic versus natural turf, but an acceptance of the merits of both.
So, what is the natural turf industry doing about the issue?
Who is promoting the value and benefits of natural turf pitches?
Who is championing the advances made by the industry?
Who is highlighting the quality of the research being undertaken into providing even better natural turf pitches?
The fact is, everyone in the industry knows about the significant strides taken to produce top quality surfaces of a standard which would have been unheard of 10 years ago. The problem is, we don't tell anyone else.
We don't explain how we produce the pitches to the quality that is now taken for granted by the clubs, players and public. We don't tell UEFA or FIFA about the research being undertaken into seed production, rootzone materials, lighting etc. aimed at producing even better surfaces in the future.
As a public relations exercise, the industry is a disaster. It is losing hands down and appears to be unconcerned. Well, we had better do something about it and soon before it is too late.
How many more wake up calls does the industry need?
If you have a genuine interest in promoting the merits of natural turf pitches, and want to contribute in some way, take a look at Pitchcare's 'Future of Groundsmanship - Call to Action' article.