IOG warning over professional football artificial turf plan

The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) has expressed serious concerns about any replacement of natural turf with artificial turf in professional sport.

Artificial pitches could make a shock comeback if some Football League clubs get their way.

Wycombe and Accrington are two clubs keen to reintroduce them in a bid to cut costs and increase revenue.

For artificial surfaces to return to the Football League at some point in the future, there would need to be a proposal and vote in favour at an annual general meeting. In theory a proposal could be raised in time for a vote at the next AGM in June.

IOG chief executive Geoff Webb said:

"Grass is the natural surface for our professional sports.  It’s what players and fans want.  Natural grass – properly maintained to governing body standards - provides the optimum playing surface today.

"We recognise the improvements made with artificial playing surfaces, due to better technology.  But even bigger strides have been made with grass. The standard of natural turf is a testament to the skill of the many dedicated, forward-thinking and experienced groundsmen; and they are strongly backed by a multi-million pound turf care industry that is the envy of the world.  Together, this industry and the world’s best groundsmen are constantly improving and advancing the technologies and techniques needed to enhance playing surfaces."

IOG concerns:

  • That artificial turf should not be used as an excuse to save on maintenance or, indeed, to replace the need for a groundsman. The high maintenance needs of artificial surfaces must never be under-estimated. These are not ‘all weather surfaces’
  • Some sports clubs’ interest in installing artificial surfaces is linked to driving commercial revenues, with real risk to playing quality and customer satisfaction. The emergence of artificial turf at grass roots level is also inextricably linked to significant cut backs and under-investment at a vast majority of pitches, most of which in football are in public sector ownership
  • Maintenance is often under-promoted at grass roots level - and suffers from under-investment rather than being viewed as an essential aspect of a club’s budget
  • With over 20,000 sites in England alone and an estimated 45,000 pitches, despite the grant funding available there simply is not the budget for a wholesale replacement of natural grass with artificial turf. 

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