At the recent 2015 Women’s World Cup held in Toronto, Canada, there was significant controversy regarding the decision to hold all of the games on artificial turf instead of natural grass. Many suggest that artificial turf is simply not the same experience as grass.
Regardless of their feelings, artificial surfaces are a new reality in North America. Several professional Major League Soccer (MLS) teams play on them. North America’s climate makes artificial turf a feasible and necessary solution. Coupled with the high volume of use these fields see, artificial fields are the natural choice.
Moving the sport indoors into a soccer dome usually means moving from a grass pitch to a turf one, but switching over might be tough for some. Here we discuss the advantages and things to keep in mind when playing on synthetic turf.
Synthetic turf consists of artificial grass blades stitched into a backing material. The installers then layer sand or rubber pellets through the grass to provide a springy padding that helps reduce injuries. But is it really the same experience as grass? This article breaks down the different experiences of an outdoor or indoor soccer field made of turf and a grass pitch.
One of the biggest arguments in favour of artificial turf is its ability to handle heavy amounts of traffic. In most North American cities, the wide range of sports played make artificial turf a sensible solution.
Artificial turfs do not require mowing like natural turf does, although they are not immune to maintenance issues such as rips or tears. Painting lines on an artificial turf is also a one-off activity.
While there are fairly significant upkeep costs associated with artificial turf, many clubs recoup these fees by increasing playing time in the course of a day. Grass requires time to ‘rest,’ especially after rainfall, but this concern does not hamper turf fields.
Some soccer purists suggest that playing on a turf field represents an abomination to the sport. While it is certainly an adjustment, most players welcome the change of playing environment.
You often hear professional players saying that they don’t enjoy playing on artificial turf, because they prefer real grass. The reality remains that most of these teams play on meticulously manicured grass with a well-paid grounds crew constantly looking after it. If you are not a professional club, you cannot afford such luxuries!
Most natural grass fields are just that: a field. If you are lucky, you will have a flat field, but this is no guarantee. Most field have bumps, ruts, and uneven patches covering their surface. Depending on the day, you might have especially short grass, or particularly long grass. Grass length determines how fast the ball moves, with longer grass slowing down movement.
On synthetic fields, you can usually rely on a nice, smooth, and consistent surface for the ball to roll over. This also allows players to wear a wide variety of footwear: you don’t always need cleats to play the game.
Another cause for complaint from professional players comes from the hard nature of artificial turf. When the ball hits the ground, it bounces higher than it does on grass, which is a surprising adjustment to make. If you add some wet conditions into the mix, the ball tends to skip as well. This also requires an adjustment, as teams with a focus on long balls have to factor in the extra distance the ball usually travels.
Unless you have the luxury of earning millions of dollars playing for a top English Premier League Squad, you probably aren’t playing on a perfect grass pitch. Artificial turf can be an expensive alternative, but in most areas of North America, it provides players with the closest experience to a Premier League pitch they will ever see. Moving the game into a soccer dome will take some adjustment, but it’s worth it to be able to enjoy soccer year-round!