The Future of Synthetic Turf
For the last few years, the FIH Equipment Committee has been working towards specifying a water-free synthetic turf for top level hockey and a multi-sport turf for some other levels.
Developing a water-free turf is an important project because it recognises environmental concerns about water usage. The multi-sport turf will facilitate access to community or shared facilities at a reasonable cost.
With regard to multi-sport turf, some recent products have been shown to meet FIH “national” level performance criteria and also FIFA One Star requirements. They are included in the list of approved turfs on our website with a cross-reference to their FIFA status.
The development of a water-free turf is a much more technically challenging project. We are in regular contact with the turf industry and specialist advisers including our accredited laboratories and we are seeking the views of players in various ways. Specific research has also been commissioned to enable us to specify a water-free turf which performs in much the same way as current water-based turf. As a result of this research, we now know more about the interaction of the ball and various turf types. However, we are still looking into turf abrasion and friction. This is important research because it concerns player safety and comfort for example when falling or sliding on turf. We have studied the first research outcomes from a university department and have commissioned follow-up research.
These comments show that we are getting closer to a draft specification for a water-free turf. However, it will still take some time to coordinate the research, agree a specification and then for the industry to develop products which meet the specification. It will therefore be a year or two before new turfs are widely available.
In the interim and in relation to top level hockey, water-based pitches will continue to be specified. Even when new turfs are available, there is no intention of not continuing to allow top events to be played on existing water-based pitches which meet the FIH performance specifications.
Organisations considering the installation of new pitches or refurbishment of existing pitches can therefore use current products with confidence. Pitches installed in the near future using these turfs will continue to provide good facilities for hockey. Newly installed pitches using current turfs are not compromised by and do not contradict the longer term aims being pursued by the FIH Equipment Committee.