Artificial pitches have changed (and are changing) football – and certainly not for the worse. Thanks to artificial pitches, lots of games have been able to take place which otherwise would not have done so. As technology improves and artificial pitches are able to become more and more authentic, their role will only become more significant. But their reputation hasn’t always been exactly positive. If you’re intrigued, here’s their story, their past, and their future.
Who’s Used Them?
Artificial pitches have been used by lots of popular teams. Here are a few examples:
- Queens Park Rangers: QPR had their first artificial pitch installed at Loftus Road in 1980.
- Luton Town: They got their “plastic pitch” in 1985 at Kenilworth Road stadium.
- Oldham Athletic: One year later, in 1986, Oldham Athletic followed suit with their own artificial pitch.
Fans and players alike did not appreciate the introduction of artificial pitches in the 1980s. Fans felt that they did not look pleasing to the eye, while players were unhappy due to the fact that they caused an increase in injuries. Not a really good introduction to the football world.
How Has the Technology Improved?
The reason that artificial pitches weren’t so popular at first, was because of the way they were made. In the past, they’d be made of short pile fibres with no infill. They lacked the softness of real grass and were quite painful to play on. After a while, they started using longer fibres (making the “grass” feel less pointy) and uses a sand infill, to make it much easier to walk on. Now, even this method has been outdated.
Today, there are different kinds of infill and they can be modified much more. Football is just one example, but there are artificial pitches for most sports. These modern artificial pitches are a lot more player-friendly and cause greater injuries to any significant extent.
So what does FIFA think about all of this? Well, while they are conscious of the fact that a badly made artificial turf can be quite damaging, they also recognise its benefits. Artificial pitches can be played on in all weather conditions and are much cheaper to look after since they require very little maintenance. Their solution is to set standards and so they require all artificial pitches to be comprised of the following:
- Rubber particle infill
- River sand infill
- Artificial turf
- An optional asphalt layer
Assuming that venues are able to provide an artificial pitch which meets their official requirements, FIFA have no issue with them being used. It’s a shift in attitude which reflects the fact that the quality of these pitches has significantly increased.
Examples of the International Use of Artificial Pitches
Just as they are within the UK, artificial pitches are beginning to grow in use across the globe. There have been times, for example, where the climate of a country has caused the use of a natural pitch to be impractical. A good example of this is Canada in the 2015 Women’s World Cup. In fact, at the time, there were concerns that the choice may have been rooted in gender discrimination. This reflected the low opinions of artificial pitches held by the players.
On a positive note, Estadio Chivas (the stadium of one of Mexico’s most popular football teams) made the shift towards artificial pitches. Their reason for doing so, was to be more environmentally friendly. Much more water is used when looking after grass, so it is understandable that stadiums might want to make this change for that reason. While they did eventually make a return to natural grass, it is possible that they will return to artificial turfs in future.
The Future of Artificial Pitches
It is likely that artificial pitches will continue to grow in popularity. The environmental benefits mentioned above are likely to sway a lot of people, as awareness of environmental issues becomes more widespread. With businesses always working to improve their artificial pitches and to offer a product with a broad appeal, it’s likely that their bad reputation will lessen even more so.
Artificial pitches are a great idea and it’s one which is still in development. Right now, you can get some pretty great artificial pitches which can be used in extreme weather conditions and can help to save football clubs money. They may not be quite as comfortable for the players, but you can bet that this is something which will be improved. Their popularity has been steadily growing over the last forty years or so and it is a trend which is likely to continue.
Jake Watkins is a freelance business writer from the UK. Previously a blogger for a content marketing agency. Over the years Jake has had the opportunity to write for a variety of leading UK companies. In his spare time, Jake enjoys learning more about technology and hiking in the hills. Enjoys a bit of football too. You can follow him on Twitter for contact him via his website.