Stadia & Artificial turf
Artificial turf could be used for UEFA competition matchesArtificial turf could be used for UEFA competition matches (©AFP)

Approval for artificial pitches

Wednesday, 10 November 2004


By Mark Chaplin in Vienna

UEFA competition matches may be played on artificial turf from the 2005/06 season.

Comprehensive studies
The decision was taken by UEFA's Executive Committee at its meeting in Vienna on Wednesday, and follows comprehensive and ongoing studies into the sporting and medical aspects of using artificial playing surfaces.

Approval given
On the basis of information collected from UEFA pilot projects and various surveys, the Executive Committee followed a recommendation by UEFA's artificial turf panel to approve artificial turf in UEFA competitions as from next season, provided the installed turf product complies with UEFA quality criteria.

Next season onwards
"It means that from next season and onwards, it will be possible to play on artificial turf in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup and the qualifying matches for [FIFA] World Cups and [UEFA] European Championships," said UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson.

Pilot project
Some two years ago, UEFA launched a pilot project involving several European venues, at which artificial turf was laid. The venues in question were in Almelo (Netherlands), Moscow (Russia), Dunfermline (Scotland), Orebro (Sweden) and Salzburg (Austria). The clubs playing at the venues have received a UEFA subsidy in return for their co-operation with the European body.

Various studies
Studies have been carried out into medical and football-related aspects of artificial turf. The research has been looking at the safety of players and injuries, as well as issues such as the roll and bounce of the ball, to enable a comparison to be made with natural grass playing surfaces. Players and coaches have also been asked their views as part of the research.

Research continues
Following the latest decision, research will continue and be reinforced in the medical and bio-mechanical fields. Based on the development of turf quality and new products available, all five pilot projects should upgrade their quality standards to comply with current UEFA criteria.

Quality criteria
Any newly installed artificial turf will only be approved for UEFA competition matches on condition that it meets UEFA's quality criteria, and the aim would be to re-test approved artificial turf pitches every 12 months if they are used in top UEFA club competitions. UEFA's artificial turf manual will be constantly adapted, and its expert panel will monitor the developments in this field.

Opening doors
"This decision could open doors for other [stadiums] to have artificial turf, because there are some stadiums where it would be better to have artificial turf than the current natural turf," said Mr Olsson.

Great need
"The need [for artificial turf] has been great for years, if you come from countries with bad winters, for example. The reason for this decision is that the quality has now reached a level where artificial turf is comparable to, or even better than natural turf in some cases," the UEFA CEO added.

Important step forward
"A good natural pitch is always the best - that is also the view of the players and everybody else involved - but a good artificial surface is better than bad natural turf," Mr Olsson went on. "It was an important step forward to take this decision. It will probably have the effect that the companies developing the turf will see that there is a market. And probably the product will be even better."

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