More than 90 percent of professional footballers in the Netherlands say they prefer playing on natural grass to playing on artificial turf. That was announced on Monday by the commercial news radio station BNR, which carried out a survey with the players’ union (VVCS).
Artificial turf has been trialed in the Netherlands since the season 2003/2004. Heracles Almelo was one of five clubs selected by UEFA to take part in a pilot. The club received a grant of just over 200,000 euros from UEFA. For two years, the experiences were closely monitored, so that artificial turf could be matched to the demands of users in the future. Eight years later, UEFA is still analyzing the findings to see if artificial turf should be allowed in the upper echelons of European football, and now there are six Dutch clubs using it.
New opinion poll
Since artificial turf was introduced, there has been much resistance to it from the players, who have given a multitude of reasons. In 2006, there was actually a campaign against it, and at the time over 80 percent of the players opposed it. The VVCS decided it was time to find out if advances in technology have improved the artificial pitches, and if the current players have a different view to those polled six years ago. A total of 538 players (approx 57%) responded to the survey.
Of them, 91.6 percent said they preferred playing on grass to artificial turf. About a quarter were concerned that clubs which used artificial turf had an unfair advantage. Another quarter mentioned that the ball behaves differently, and bounces more easily. Over a third believe there’s more chance of injury on artificial surfaces.
Reasons to be cheerful
Of the minority who said they preferred an artificial surface, almost two thirds said that being able to play in all sort of weather conditions was a factor. Other oft-cited reasons were that the field is always in the same state, and it’s easier to control the ball thanks to a more even surface.
Asked to rate the quality of the six artificial pitches, of which two are in the Premier League, on a scale of 1-5, the players gave none of them high average ratings. The highest was FC Volendam, at 2.8 out of 5. On a scale of 1-10, players were asked to rate playing football on real grass as opposed to artificial turf. Real grass was given an average rating of 8.4, compared to just a 5 for artificial turf.
So the message from the vast majority of professional players is clear, and it looks unlikely that there will be a significant increase in the use of artificial pitches in the Netherlands in the near future. The use of under-soil heating in many grounds has lessened the chances of a match having to be postponed because the pitch is unplayable, and these days grass pitches are of much better quality than they were 50 years ago.