Nyon 2002 - UEFA Turf Manual - Accreditation Systems of Various Sports

N08 New Requirements of IAAF Performance Specifications


International Association of Athletics Federations


Benoit Laruel, IAAF Technical Officer

It is the IAAF's duty as the sport's world governing body for athletics to ensure that the athletics equipment used in international competitions is of the requisite standard, manufactured in accordance with IAAF technical requirements, and, most importantly, guarantees the safety of the athletes.

Rationale for a Certification System

The IAAF's rationale for having a Certification System is two-fold.

First and foremost, is the safety of the athletes who compete in international athletics competitions around the world. There has been a rapid development in the manufacture of athletics equipment over recent years, including implements and synthetic track surfaces, resulting in an increased number of products on the market. These are not all of the same quality.

The second reason for having a Certification System is to protect the manufacturers and suppliers of the products that are used. Indeed, it was the manufacturers and suppliers who requested that a Certification System be introduced in the first place. It was found that, prior to the introduction of the Certification System, products were being held out to be "IAAF Approved", "Authorised by the IAAF" or "IAAF Official Equipment" in circumstances where the IAAF had no way of knowing whether the product in question had undergone prior IAAF testing and where, in some cases, the evidence was that such tracks did not meet the IAAF's technical requirements. This placed the bona fide manufacturers and suppliers at a disadvantage. By introducing a reliable system of testing and certification of the products in use, the IAAF has been able to eradicate such malpractices, protect the products which do meet the requisite standard and, in this way, safeguard the integrity of the sport at the highest level.

The Certification System

The IAAF Certification System was launched in 1999 and the IAAF Certified Product designation now guarantees that the product in question conforms to IAAF specifications. It also recognises the growing trend towards international standardisation of product specifications, as well as the need to prevent unauthorised usage of the IAAF name.

In order to obtain IAAF certification, systems developed for athletics tracks are required to undergo a prior programme of laboratory testing and in-situ evaluation.

These tests and evaluations have the following principal aims:

  • to ensure the compatibility of all the raw materials in the formulation
  • to ensure that the system can be successfully installed under normal climatic conditions
  • to ensure that the surface has satisfactory durability
  • to ensure that the performance characteristics of the surface are satisfactory for athletics
  • to ensure that the formulation has no unsatisfactory environmental characteristics with respect to its raw materials ingredients, method of installation, or long-term performance

Also in 1999, the IAAF introduced a Certification Procedure for all 400m synthetic tracks for which two levels of certificates are issued:

IAAF Class 2 Certified Track Facility

In order to qualify, the facility must have a satisfactory report from a qualified surveyor stating that all markings and levels are correct within accepted tolerances. Moreover, the track surfacing must have a valid IAAF product certificate.

IAAF Class 1 Certified Track Facility

In addition to the Class 2 requirement above, the facility must have a satisfactory in-situ test report from an IAAF-accredited laboratory confirming the compliance of the facility with the IAAF Performance Specifications for Synthetic Surfaces.

All international competitions held under IAAF Rules should be held on tracks which have at least a current Class 2 Certificate. At the highest level of competition, a Class 1 Certificate is required for the World Championships, Olympic Games, World Cup and other major games.

The testing and investigation of these facilities is a very specialised activity, requiring complicated test apparatus and considerable experience in its use and interpretation of the results that it generates. It is for this reason that the IAAF has accredited eight laboratories around the world for the purpose of testing and certifying conformity with the IAAF Performance Specifications for Synthetic Surfaces.

New IAAF Protocols for Field Testing

On the occasion of this ISSS Technical Meeting, we have decided to focus mainly on the new protocols for field testing which were finalised recently with the collaboration of the ISSS Board.

The Performance Specifications for Synthetic Surfaced Athletics Tracks (Outdoor -1990) on which the tests and certification are based, resulted from a long and detailed work involving, amongst others, the test laboratories, track manufacturers, biomechanical researchers and the IAAF. This work commenced in 1985, the initial specifications were agreed in 1988 and were monitored closely between then and the introduction of the certification system in 1999.

The effectiveness of the surface is a matter of prime concern to all users of a facility. Certain performance requirements must be met if athletics is to take place on the surface with comfort and safety for the athletes.

These fundamental requirements have been laid down by the IAAF, and are as follows:

  1. Imperfections: freedom from bubbles, fissures, delamination, uncured areas etc.
  2. Flatness: no significant localised bumps, depressions or step-like irregularities
  3. Thickness: the depth of the synthetic surfacing layer throughout the facility is recorded
  4. Force Reduction: an appropriate reduction in impact force caused by the surface
  5. Vertical Deformation: an appropriate degree of deformation of the surface under impact
  6. Friction: no potential slip between shoe and the wet surface
  7. Tensile Strength: adequate strength of the surfacing material in tension
  8. Colour: uniformity and consistency of the colour
  9. Drainage: effective shedding of water

As the current Performance Specifications have now existed for 12 years, the IAAF has reviewed all developments and experiences in the intervening period and the proposed changes are as follow:


Current Specifications

New Specifications

1. ImperfectionsNo serious imperfectionsno real changes
2. Flatness

6mm below 4m straightedge

3mm below 1m straightedge

No change but test method more extensive
3. Thickness

Average 12mm Min 10mm

Max 5% between 10-10.5mm

Max 10% below the relevant thickness1
4. Force reduction35% to 50% between
10°C and 40°C
 35±1% to 50±1% between 10°C and 40°C at min 12 locations2
5. Modified Vertical Deformation 0.6 to 1.8mm between
10°C and 40°C
0.6±0.1mm to 2.2±0.1mm between 10°C and 40°C at min 12 locations2
6. FrictionNot less than 0.5 when wetno real changes
7. Tensile Properties

Tensile strength of 0.5 MPa for non-porous and 0.4 MPa for porous systems

Elongation at break not less than 40%

no real changes
8. ColourUniform to within one position on Methuen Handbookconsistent within the design and uniform
9. Drainage
No surface water after 20 min
no real changes

1 the thickness specified on the IAAF Product Certificate minus 10%
2 At least one measurement shall be made for every 500m2 of normal thickness synthetic surface

Note that force reduction and vertical deformation performance requirements take precedence over the thickness requirements.

In order to provide information on the effect of temperature on the material performance, the laboratory testing of track surfacing products for Force Reduction and Vertical Deformation should be done at 100C and 400C as well as at the standard laboratory temperature.


The IAAF believes that, not only will the Certification System serve and protect athletic manufacturers around the world, but it will also give vital support to IAAF's mission in helping and protecting athletes at the top levels of the sport world-wide.

We are confident that the introduction of the IAAF Certification System has significantly contributed to the use of even-higher quality synthetic tracks enhancing further development of our Sport.

Cagliari: 25 & 26 October 2018

The ISSS has successfully concluded the AGM and the Technical Conference in Cagliari. Scientific and Individual Members present accepted financials, audit report and activity schedule as presented.
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