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Modern artificial grass.

Artificial turf, or Astroturf, is a man-made surface manufactured from synthetic made to look like natural grass. It is most often used in arenas for sports that were originally or are normally played on grass. However, it is now being used on residential lawns and commercial applications as well. The main reason is maintenance — fake grass resists heavy use (such as sports) better, and requires no irrigation.


David Chaney—who moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1960 and later served as dean of the North Carolina State Universitymarker College of Textiles—headed the team of RTP researchers who created the first notable artificial turf. That accomplishment led Sports Illustrated to declare Chaney as the man "responsible for indoor major league baseball and millions of welcome mats." This turf first came to prominence in 1965, when AstroTurf was installed in the newly-built Astrodomemarker in Houston, Texasmarker. The use of AstroTurf and similar surfaces became widespread in the 1970s and was installed in both indoor and outdoor stadiums used for baseball and gridiron football in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker. Maintaining a grass playing surface indoors, while technically possible, is prohibitively expensive, while teams who chose to play on artificial surfaces outdoors did so because of the reduced maintenance cost, especially in colder climates with urban multi-purpose "cookie cutter" stadiums such as Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadiummarker, Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadiummarker and Philadelphia's Veterans Stadiummarker.


Association football

Some association football (soccer) clubs in Europe installed synthetic surfaces in the 1980s, which were called "plastic pitches" (often derisively) in countries such as Englandmarker. In England, several professional club venues had adopted them including QPR's Loftus Roadmarker, Luton Town's Kenilworth Roadmarker, Oldham Athletic's Boundary Parkmarker and Preston's Deepdalemarker until the English FA banned them in 1988. Turf gained a bad reputation on both sides of the Atlanticmarker with fans and especially with players. The first Astro turfs were a far harder surface than grass, and soon became known as an unforgiving playing surface which was prone to cause more injuries, and in particular, more serious joint injuries, than would comparatively be suffered on a grass surface. This turf was also regarded as aesthetically unappealing to many fans.

In the 1990s many North American football clubs also removed their artificial surfaces and re-installed grass, while others moved to new stadiums with state-of-the-art grass surfaces that were designed to withstand cold temperatures where the climate demanded it. The use of turf was later banned by FIFAmarker, UEFA and by many domestic soccer associations, though, in recent years, both governing bodies have expressed resurrected the use of artificial surfaces in competition provided that they are FIFA Recommended. UEFA has now been heavily involved in programs to test turf with tests made in several grounds meeting with FIFA approval. A team of UEFA, FIFA and German company Polytan conducted tests in the Stadion Salzburg Wals-Siezenheim in Salzburg, Austria which is due to have matches played on it in the UEFA EURO 2008. It is the second FIFA 2 Star approved turf in a European domestic top flight, after Dutch club Heracles Almelo received the FIFA certificate in August last year. The tests were approved.


Modern artificial grass

In the early 21st century, new artificial playing surfaces using sand and/or rubber infill were developed. These "next generation" or "third generation" artificial grass surfaces are generally regarded as being about as safe to play on as a typical natural grass surface — perhaps even safer in cold conditions.

Many clubs have installed the new synthetic grass surfaces, most commonly as part of an all-weather training capability. Other clubs which have maintained natural grass surfaces are now re-considering artificial grass. With football clubs in Europe looking to reduce both the maintenance costs and the number of winter matches that are cancelled due to the playing surface being frozen, the issue has also been re-visited by that sport's governing bodies.

The Scottish Premier League banned synthetic surfaces for competition matches in 2005, following a two year experiment by Dunfermline Athletic who installed XL Turf, made by the Swiss firm, XL Generation. The management of Dunfermline were happy with the surface, but the league banned its use due to complaints by visiting clubs such as Rangers and Celtic.

Artificial turf
UEFA later announced that starting from the 2005-06 season, approved artificial surfaces were to be permitted in their competitions.

Regardless of the views of the governing bodies, criticism of artificial surfaces in soccer continues, notably in reference to the FieldTurf surface at Toronto F.C.'s BMO Fieldmarker and the Giants Stadiummarker home of Red Bull New York. Current and former players have recently criticised the surface, expressing concerns that, among other things, it may exacerbate injuries.

A full international fixture for the 2008 European Championships was played on 17 October 2007 between England and Russia on an artificial surface, which was installed to counteract adverse weather conditions, at the Luzhniki Stadiummarker in Moscowmarker. It was one of the first full international games to be played on such a surface approved by both FIFA and UEFA. However UEFA ordered that the 2008 European Champions League final hosted in the same stadium in May 2008 must take place on grass, so a temporary natural grass field was installed just for the final. UEFA stressed that artificial turf should only be considered an option where climatic conditions necessitate.

In June 2009, following a match played at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Costa Ricamarker, American national team manager Bob Bradley called on FIFA to "have some courage" and ban artificial surfaces.

FIFAmarker designated a star system for artificial turf fields that have undergone a series of tests that examine quality and performance based on a two star system. Recommended 2-Star fields may be used for FIFA Final Round Competitions as well as for UEFA Europa League and Champions League matches. There are currently 130 FIFA Recommended 2-Star installations in the world.


Artificial turf was first used in Major League Baseball in the Astrodome. Other "cookie-cutter" stadiums such as Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, and Riverfront Stadium installed it. Early astroturf baseball fields used the traditional all-dirt path, but in the early 70s, teams began using the "base cutout" layout on the diamond, with the only dirt being on the pitcher's mound, batters circle, and around the bases. The biggest difference in play on astroturf was that the ball bounced higher on astroturf than on real grass. In 2000, Tropicana Field became the first MLB field to use a softer artificial surface. Other stadiums such as Veterans Stadium and the Metrodome followed until all artificial turf fields were softer turf. Despite the improvements in artificial turf, new ballparks are always built with natural grass, as artificial turf is disliked by many baseball fans. Only two MLB stadiums still use artificial turf: Rogers Centremarker and Tropicana Fieldmarker.

American football

Field hockey

The introduction of synthetic surfaces has significantly changed the sport of field hockey. Since being introduced in the 1970s, competitions in western countries are now mostly played on artificial surfaces. This has increased the speed of the game considerably, and changed the shape of hockey sticks to allow for different techniques, such as reverse stick trapping and hitting. Due to the cost of synthetic field installation, Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker have lost their once dominant position in international competition.

Field hockey artificial turf differs from soccer and football artificial turf in the way that it does not try to reproduce a grass 'feel', being made of shorter fibres similar to the ones used on Dunfermline's field. This shorter fibre structure allows the improvement in speed brought by earlier artificial turfs to be retained. This development in the game is however problematic for many local communities who often cannot afford to build two artificial fields: one for field hockey and one for other sports. The FIH and manufacturers are driving research in order to produce new fields that will be suitable for a variety of sports.

Field categories
Category Description
Unfilled Often called "water-based", the pile is unfilled. The fields require wetting, hence the name "water-based", often via prolonged showering with field-side water cannon prior to their use and occasionally during half-time intervals depending on the prevailing atmospherics. They are favoured by most sports since they offer more protection for players by minimising the abrasive effect created by the sand. These fields form the majority of the elite level field hockey fields in use today.
Sand-dressed The pile of the carpet is filled to within 5-8 mm of the tips of the fibre with fine sand. The sand cannot be seen. It can be confused with unfilled fields.
Sand filled The pile of the carpet is filled almost to the top with sand. The sand makes the field rough and harder. In comparison to water-based fields or minimal sand-dressed fields, ball speed across the surface is often noticeably slower.

Ski and snowboard

Some skiing and snowboarding clubs and resorts in Europe installed artificial surfaces in the 1960s and 1970s. Often called pista del sole, after its ability to be used in warm, sunny, conditions, these installations have become increasingly uncommon.



Since the early 1990s, the use of synthetic grass has moved rapidly beyond athletic fields to residential and commercial landscaping artificial lawns. This trend has been driven primarily by two functions: the quality and variety of synthetic grasses that are available has improved dramatically, and cities and water conservation organizations have begun realizing the value of artificial grass as a conservation measure.It also requires less maintenance and care.

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Artificial turf can be a better solution when the environment is particularly hostile to natural grass. An arid environment or one where there is little natural light are examples.
  • Artificial turf can withstand significantly more use than natural grass and can therefore be used much more frequently. This allows sports ground owners to generate more income from their facilities.
  • Ideal for holiday homes when maintenance of lawns is not practical. It is also a solution for elderly homeowners who find the upkeep of lawns too much hard work.
  • Suitable for roof gardens and swimming pool surrounds.
  • Some artificial turf systems allow for the integration of fiber-optic fibers into the turf. This would allow for lighting or advertisements to be directly embedded in a playing surface, or runway lighting to be embedded in artificial landing surfaces for aircraft.


  • Abrasion injuries caused by artificial turf have been linked to a higher incidence of MRSA infections.
  • Some artificial turf requires infill such as silicon sand and/or granulated rubber made from recycled car tires. This material may carry heavy metals which can leach into the water table.
  • Periodic disinfection is required as pathogens are not broken down by natural processes in the same manner as natural turf. Despite this, recent studies suggest certain microbial life is less active.
  • Turf toe is a medical condition which is often associated with playing on artificial turf fields.
  • Friction between skin and artificial turf causes abrasions and/or burns to a much greater extent than natural grass. This is an issue for some sports: for example, football in which sliding maneuvers are common and clothing does not fully cover the limbs. However, with some third-generation artificial grasses, this is almost completely eliminated by the use of polyethylene yarn.
  • Artificial turf tends to be much hotter than natural grass when exposed to the sun.

See also


  1. Salzburg turf approval at
  2. Approval for artificial fields at
  4. New England Journal of Medicine article

External links

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