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FieldTurf is a brand of artificial turf playing surface. It is manufactured and installed by the FieldTurf Tarkett division of Tarkett Inc., based in Peachtree City, Georgiamarker. In the late 1990s, the artificial surface changed the industry with a design intended to replicate real grass. The new system quickly began taking market share from AstroTurf, and is now the leader in the industry.

The surface is composed of monofilament polyethylene blend fibers tufted into a polypropylene backing. The infill is composed of a bottom layer of silica sand, a middle layer which is a mixture of sand and cryogenic rubber and a top layer of only rubber. The fibers are meant to replicate blades of grass, while the infill acts as a cushion. This cushion improves safety when compared to earlier artificial surfaces and allows players to plant and pivot as if they were playing on a grass field. Proponents of the surface also cite its low-cost maintenance and durability.

Company history

Jean Prevost first bought the patent of the FieldTurf product in 1988 and originally named the company SynTenni Co., a name which would eventually be dropped in favor of FieldTurf Inc. In 1995, John Gilman, former CFL player and coach joined FieldTurf as CEO. The first professional team to install FieldTurf was the English Premiership's Middlesbrough F.C. in 1997.

The merger allowed FieldTurf to expand their range of products in other types of sports surfacing and add Tarkett's turf options to their range of products. FieldTurf Tarkett is currently run by a head corporate office in Peachtree City, Georgia along with other offices in Canada and in France. FieldTurf is now a part of the Tarkett Sports division and has installed over 3000 athletic fields.

Product

FieldTurf is made from washed silica sand and rounded cryogenic rubber. Each square foot of turf contains approximately 7 pounds of sand and 3 pounds of cryogenic rubber. FieldTurf does not use shock absorbency pads below its multi-layered infill. FieldTurf offers a number of different polyethylene fibers. The backing of the turf is a combination of woven and non-woven polypropylene. These materials are permeable and allow water to drain through the backing itself.

Safety

With regard to injuries sustained, a 5 year study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that injury rates were similar on natural grass and synthetic turf. There were, however, notable differences in the types of injuries. Athletes playing on synthetic turf sustained more skin injuries and muscle strains while those who played on natural grass were more susceptible to concussions and ligament tears. Martin O'Neill said FIFA officials should "have their heads examined" for allowing FieldTurf after Tomas Sorenson suffered a non-contact hamstring injury during a game in Toronto. According to FIFA at the time, 14% of injuries on grass were non-contact related while the figure rose to 22% on the turf.

Many initially believed that crumb rubber, made from recycled tires and used as infill in FieldTurf fields posed risks to athletes because of the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Studies done by the NY City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene verify the safety of turf with crumb rubber infill. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also reported that children are not at risk from exposure to lead in synthetic turf fields.

Uses

American Football

The first installation in an NFL stadium was in 2002 at Seattle's new Seahawks Stadium, now known as Qwest Fieldmarker. Artificial turfs had been disliked by players due to the injuries and soreness associated with playing on the previous generations' harder surfaces. Seattle's coach, Mike Holmgren said of the FieldTurf surface that "it's about as much like grass as you can have a synthetic surface be" and that the "players love it". As the trend continued in the league, FieldTurf received reviews from players who cited that the field provided cushioning for falls, eased pressure on the knees, and did not cause turf burns. Stadium operators also noted the benefits of the improved durability and easier maintenance over natural grass fields. Eleven NFL teams currently play their home games on FieldTurf while 15 teams have FieldTurf in their practice facilities. In 2006, Super Bowl XL played at Ford Field was the first Super Bowl to be played on FieldTurf.

Association football

FieldTurf's first high profile installation came in January 1997 as English Premiership's Middlesbrough FC chose FieldTurf for its new training field. Only artificial fields with FIFA Recommended 2-star status can be used in FIFA and UEFA Finals competitions. Other FIFA and UEFA competitions require at least 1-star status. No World Cup Finals match has ever been played on an artificial surface.

In 2001, Boston Universitymarker's FieldTurf soccer field became FieldTurf's first to obtain FIFA 1-star status. In 2005, Saprissa Stadiummarker in San Josémarker, Costa Ricamarker became the first stadium to host a FIFA World Cup qualifying match on FieldTurf. The Dundalk F.C. Stadium, Oriel Park received FieldTurf's first FIFA 2-star rating. FieldTurf currently has 29 FIFA Recommended 1-Star installations and 31 FIFA Recommended 2-Star installations. In 2007, the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada had almost 50% of its games played on FieldTurf.

The emergence of the surface in association football stadiums has been controversial. Players and coaches have been critical of the toll it takes on a player's body, and have expressed concerns that it does not play enough like actual grass. The surface has also been criticized for the infill not staying in place. In 2007, Garry O'Connor spoke out against the FieldTurf surface he played on during a cup final with Lokomotiv Moscow. He called it a "nightmare" and said that he did not believe FIFA should allow qualifying matches to be played on the surface.

Although there are players who dislike playing on artificial turf, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that artificial turf will eventually become a big part of the game. "This is not only a point to make headlines, it is the truth,". "Football on artificial turf is the future."

Major League Soccer

The use of FieldTurf in Major League Soccer has received criticism.

The installation of the surface at Qwest Fieldmarker was approved only after the operator of the then new stadium agreed to install a natural grass field when needed. Their concern derived from the surface potentially hindering the city's ability to attract an MLS franchise and international soccer events.

In September 2006, several top Canadian soccer players appealed to the Canadian Soccer Association to install a natural grass surface at BMO Fieldmarker in Toronto. Darren Huckerby stated that was one reason he chose not to sign with the club.

Following David Beckham's move to Major League Soccer in 2007, he voiced his opinion that the league should convert to grass for all pitches. In an apology, he stated that the surface is fine at lower levels but that his feelings hadn't changed about the MLS use because of the toll the harder surface takes on the body. He also stated: "It's difficult but it's something we have to deal with. It's part of the MLS and we have to come to terms with it and I'm sure it will be fine."

Public works

FieldTurf has been installed to cover the edges of runways at several airports. The company says that it improves visibility for pilots by reducing dust and debris and creating a sharper contrast with runway edges. It also eliminates food sources and shelter for wildlife, which can interfere with takeoffs and landings.

See also



References

  1. PTC getting HQ of sports turf company
  2. This grass is greener
  3. Magic carpet
  4. http://www.inc.com/magazine/20080901/jon-pritchetts-dream-of-reviving.html
  5. http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1017343/index.htm
  6. http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Soccer/TorontoFC/2007/08/15/4419455-sun.html
  7. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2002-09-10-fieldturf_x.htm
  8. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2003-02-24-turf_x.htm
  9. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/2003/preview/news/2003/08/09/banks_falcons/
  10. FieldTurf at FIFA U20 2007 FieldTurf at FIFA
  11. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-487476/Stop-whingeing-Russia-respond-critics.html
  12. http://www.seattlepi.com/football/40640_turf28.shtml
  13. http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/article/122506
  14. http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=451617&&cc=5901
  15. http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2009-02-22-new-features-airports_N.htm


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