Natural grass industry - ACT NOW!
George Mullan from SIS (Support in Sport) has warned delegates at the IOG's 70th Anniversary conference in Dublin to act immediately to protect their industry against the use of third generation synthetic surfaces.
"The industry is sleeping. 3G companies are knocking at your club's door".
He went on to describe the "explosion of interest" in synthetic pitches in the last 18-20 months. In football, UEFA and FIFA are actively pushing for synthetic pitches to be used in the professional game and the FA is bringing in its own criteria for synthetic pitches in the UK this year.
Commercial activity is pressurising major sporting venues to increase pitch usage to boost revenue, which has already resulted in a football stadium in the Netherlands installing a synthetic surface.
SIS believes that artificial pitches have a part to play, mainly in councils and schools and for 5-a-side leagues where pitches are hammered with constant usage. George suggested that the quality of 3G pitches was questionable, but warned that while today's professional footballers are as yet unwilling to play competitively on them, the next generation are, making it increasingly likely that tomorrow's sports stars will be more accepting of it as a playing surface.
SIS spends a great deal of time providing consultancy to organisations where poor quality synthetic pitches have been installed badly. There's also very little known about the safety of synthetic surfaces, especially about the rubber that's used to make them and of the increased likelihood of injury to players. It also appears that synthetic surfaces are misunderstood. Many think them to be 'maintenance free', which is far from the truth. They do require maintenance, and although some are sold with 8-year warranties, they're unlikely to withstand more than 6 years of intensive use.
"There's no doubt that the biggest factor in counteracting the push for 3G surfaces is the fact that our pitches in the UK are the best in Europe, possibly the World. Natural grass is the better product by far. If you don't want to see artificial surfaces in top-flight sport, you must act now to promote it."