XL Turf has first UK trial
On Saturday, the XLTurf EF 2003 artificial sport system was used under match conditions for the first time in the UK at Dunfermline.
The company that developed the artificial surface, Symbior of Canada, was granted a UEFA Test Certificate during the summer and several pitches have been installed across Europe. Competitive matches on the surface have already been staged in Russia, Austria and Sweden.
It is a clear indication that UEFA is intensifying its research into artificial pitches. The target is to collate enough information and research results by 2005 to enable a decision to be taken on the possible use of artificial pitches in European competitions.
The surface has backing from some former players including Ian Rush who commented "I have played on XL Turf indoors and outdoors. I know of many artificial turf pitches; but I have never experienced artificial turf that so closely resembles the real thing."
The pitch does not have a sand or granular infill. The surface is constructed of fibres with an under pad of expanded polypropylene. The installation system is also innovative and consists of 180 x 120 cm modular panels and a Velcro fastening system. Installing a complete playing surface takes just 48 hours.
Initial reaction from players taking part in Saturday's match was, not unsurprisingly, mixed. There were some reports of players getting burn marks, but there was a general view that the pitch played well with no apparent detrimental affect on the match
The clear advantage of such a pitch is being able to play on it in all weather conditions. It does not freeze and water drains straight through. In some countries with extreme weather conditions it will certainly help the sport.
Whether it should become the standard surface across the whole of Europe is a different matter.
It is early days, but the threat to natural grass surfaces in football appears to be gaining momentum. The question is - does this industry sit back and accept it or is there a need for a campaign to promote the positive aspects of natural turf?
At the very least, all those companies with a vested interest in natural sport turf should be considering the appointment of a consultant or specialist to put a case together supporting the argument for grass pitches. Otherwise, the decision will be taken by UEFA with no counter proposals.
Action needs to be taken now. By 2005, it will be too late.