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Turf industry takes up UEFA challenge


UEFA's artificial turf policy is prompting manufacturers to raise their standards.

Challenging option
A meeting of the UEFA Artificial Turf Experts' Panel at UEFA's headquarters in Switzerland heard that UEFA had opted for the more challenging option of testing artificial turf for its possible future use at the very highest European levels – thereby hoping to set an example for the artificial turf industry.

Dealing with the future
"It is not bombastic to say that we are dealing with the future," UEFA competition operations director Jacob Erel told the gathering of medical and technical experts who are supporting UEFA's studies into artificial turf. "Decisions that may be taken by UEFA will have a definite influence on football." UEFA's turf experts hope to be able to submit recommendations to the UEFA Executive Committee by the end of 2004, with a view to the future use of artificial pitches in major UEFA competitions from the ensuing seasons onwards.

Pilot project
UEFA has launched a pilot project involving up to six European venues, at where artificial turf has been, or will be laid. The venues in question are in Almelo (Netherlands), Denisli (Turkey), Dunfermline (Scotland), Moscow (Russia) Örebro (Sweden), Salzburg (Austria). In return, the clubs which play at the venues receive a UEFA subsidy of €195,000. In return, they are being asked to co-operate with UEFA.

Various studies
Studies are being carried out into bio-mechnical, medical and football-related aspects of artificial turf. The research is looking at the safety of players and injuries, as well as issues such as the roll and bouncing of the ball, to enable a comparison to be made with natural grass playing surfaces.

High-quality product
So far, three turf products have been given UEFA's seal of approval, as the European body seeks the highest possible turf standards. "By being stubborn in this area, our stance has paid off, and the industry is responding to the challenge of developing high-quality product," Erel said.

No doubt
"As far as the use of artificial turf at elite level is concerned, there has to be no doubt about its suitability in all aspects, so that it can be accepted by the football family and top professional leagues," added Erel, who admitted that many people still had reservations in the wake of negative experiences in the past with first and second-generation turf.

Strategic decision
"If artificial turf is accepted at the top level, it will definitely penetrate to the amateur game as well," he added. "UEFA has therefore made its choice, and has taken a strategic decision to study the potential use of artificial turf at its very top matches."