View of UEFA to the new Generation of Artificial Turf
Claudio Negroni, UEFA
First of all, on behalf of UEFA, I would like to thank ISSS for this invitation, and for giving us the opportunity to present UEFAs' views and opinions on Artificial Turf.
To make it clear from the beginning, I'm not a specialist in artificial turf. Through my work as secretary of the UEFA Stadia Committee, I became involved in this matter. Approximately three years ago, this committee started its research into artificial turf, by inviting experts and specialists to meetings, in order to learn more about this subject.
The committee very quickly recognised the importance of artificial turf for countries which suffer seriously from the climatic conditions, and the efforts which have been undertaken to make this a viable alternative to natural grass acceptable.
Since then, Artificial Turf has become a permanent topic on the agenda of the committee's meetings, and is regularly discussed by the members. Together with the Committee's Chairman I visited several artificial turf fields of the new generation in the United States, and following of theses experiences the UEFA Stadia Committee proposed to UEFA to purchase such a field, in order to promote, and more importantly, to test these new surfaces.
I've been entrusted with this very interesting project, and I have visited various European countries, in order to gain an impression of the products which are currently on the market. After having appointed an expert in this area - Mr Rolf Hediger - a programme was established, to set up a transparent and fair tender procedure.
With the purchase of this new field and the installation in the immediate vicinity of the House of European Football at the Colovray Sports Center in Nyon, UEFA, above all, wishes to show the football family that, on the one hand, it takes this subject very seriously, and, on the other hand, hopes to promote this new revolutionary alternative to natural turf. This field is made available to everybody involved in Artificial Turf for any purpose. In addition, all a dozen samples of the current products on the market are exposed in this centre and available to visitors.
It is quite obvious that for the first time in the history of the Game, the Football Authorities now consider Artificial turf as a valuable and equivalent replacement to natural grass.
It is felt that the characteristics of the new generation are similar to natural grass, but, in any case, far better than those of the 1st and 2nd generation. UEFA has recognised this unique chance, and is convinced that even top international football matches may be played on the new surfaces, and sooner, rather than later.
For the time being, UEFA accepts artificial turf pitches for its competition matches only at the lowest levels of European football - e.g. Youth, Women's and Amateur Football -and only under the provision that the visiting teams give prior approval.
However, this principle has not been applied for a mini-tournament in the UEFA Regions' Cup- an Amateur Football Competition - which will take place in Malta early December where all the matches will be played on an artificial turf of the new generation without any approval being required from the visiting teams.
It is the sincere goal of UEFA to promote the new generation, and to start with a programme on a step-by-step basis. This means, for example, that artificial turf will firstly be accepted at the Youth, Women's and Amateur levels, and then in UEFA Club Competitions, and finally, in the European Championship.
But until this goal is reached, a lot of work and effort must be undertaken, not only by the football authorities, but principally through researches by the manufacturers and testing institutes.
For the time being, it is just not possible to force any top European Football Club to play an international competition match anywhere in Europe on artificial turf, knowing that the home team has the possibility to use this surface throughout the year, whilst the visiting team is not used to playing on such a field. Imagine if this top team were to lose this match and be eliminated from a competition!! It would be considered as an unfair competition.
Consequently, and in order to give everybody the same possibilities, and to enable everybody to rely on the same principles and norms, specifications and recommendations must be established, in order to provide the users with the same values all over the world. In addition, the step-by-step programme earlier mentioned allows everybody to get familiar with the new types of artificial turf and offers the possibility to get used to such surfaces during a period which shall be determined by the football authorities.
A working group, composed of experts and football representatives of FIFA and UEFA, has started this work, and they are trying to set up parameters regarding sports-related characteristics, e.g. Ball-Bounce, Ball-Roll, Return of Energy, Force Reduction, Rotational Resistance, and, finally, a rather new criteria - the Horizontal Ball Bounce. As a Football Authority, UEFA has the priority duty to provide the safest and best possible surface for the players, thereby enabling them to perform in the best possible way. Although the technical and scientific aspects are considered as very important, these elements - at least for UEFA - are of second priority. Finally, and with regard to the top level of football, money will not, and cannot have any influence in the provision of first-class football surfaces.
In this context, and given the numerous contacts with the various interested parties in this field, we are of the view that the three following alternatives could be of interest to football in the future at all levels:
A. Artificial turf for the top level that meets very firm and strict sports-related technical criteria (tests and trials with minimum/maximum values), and for which the price and life are less important.
B. High-quality artificial turf which also meets very firm and strict sports-related technical criteria (tests and trials with minimum./maximum values), but the choice of which depends greatly on the price and lifespan.
C. Artificial turf for public use - communities, clubs playing football at the lower end of the scale, indoor pitches, etc., which cannot allow themselves to replace such turf within 10 years. Here, the sports-related properties would be less important, coming after the technical criteria and lifespan.
The above alternatives are based on the views of the group set up by UEFA for the Colovray project, and should be seen as the basis for further development work by the manufacturers.
Nevertheless, it is essential to establish the aforementioned football criteria, and it is equally important to set up clear, uniform and approved test methods, in order to measure these requirements. A test certificate should than confirm that the tested field corresponds to the demands laid down by the football authorities.
The following goals could be achieved by implementing such a procedure:
From my work, discussions and meetings within the Artificial Turf area, it seems that these tasks are anything else than easy to realise. Too many personal, as well as national interests are involved in this subject - interests which, it seems, are difficult to unite.
However, it is important to mention that UEFA has no interest in promoting any particular product, or to work with any particular organisation or institute, or to have any preference whatsoever. UEFA's priority is to promote the new generation of artificial turf, which in our opinion represents a revolutionary and unique chance for football to overcome the enormous problems encountered in recent years with regard to natural football fields.
In recent years, UEFA has made considerable efforts in terms of manpower and financial support, and will continue with the work it has started. However, I would stress that co-operation from all sides is needed to achieve the goals that UEFA has set.
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.