FIFA Final Tournament on Artificial Turf Wins Acclaimback to list
16 September 2003
Finnair Stadium, Finland’s national football stadium, has made history after becoming the first venue with an artificial pitch to host a FIFA final tournament.
The first competitive FIFA matches played on the synthetic turf at the venue for the U-17 World Championships were hailed a success by world football’s governing body, players and coaches from the 16 participating teams and the stadium management.
Going by its old name, Töölö Stadium, for the 32-match competition, the venue hosted 10 matches during the tournament and served notice to the natural and artificial-turf industry of the benefits of next-generation synthetic turf for professional football.
The system, supplied by Mondo and installed ahead of the Finnish football season in May, had been subjected to a heavy programme of play prior to the tournament – the venue’s two home teams, HJK Helsinki and FC Jokerit, had already played 20 games combined, while a 20-match junior tournament also put the pitch to the test.
Stadium director Jarmo Koskinen claimed the pitch performed to expectations during the tournament. “We are very pleased with the surface we have,” he says.
He met with FIFA officials and representatives of some of the teams in a specially organised seminar held towards the end of the tournament to gauge their opinions on the pitch. Koskinen says the teams reported some “typical footballing injuries”, but none were attributed to the synthetic pitch. “There was no criticism of the artificial turf. Nobody who lost a game said a bad word about the pitch. But all the teams would have liked to practise more on it to adapt.”
Jyrki Heliskoski, the Finnish U-17 team coach, made some positive comments on the surface at the FIFA meeting, in which FIFA’s Quality Concept was also discussed, saying that “artificial turf is the solution for the future of football in Finland”.
The only major concern focused on whether to water the pitch before games. “Some teams were not used to this as it made the surface a little more slippery and some traction was reduced, but I think the difference was very marginal,” Koskinen explains.
FIFA’s Technical Study Group is currently analysing the responses from all teams sent questionnaires about their experiences of playing on the pitch at the championship.
One important aspect of artificial turf yet to receive significant attention is the best practice maintenance of synthetic surfaces. Koskinen, who struggled to produce a good natural-turf pitch once the 10,770-seat stadium opened in 2000, remains conscious of the dearth of studies in this area and has tightly controlled the maintenance regime of the Mondoturf Ecofill 60 II NST ever since it was installed.
“We have done a pretty good job so far,” he says. Tasks involve cleaning the pitch, brushing the turf to keep the piles straight and ensuring the infill rubber is evenly distributed, with additions necessary in some areas. “If we skip maintenance, we will reduce the lifetime of the pitch and lose some of the qualities needed for football,” he says.
Koskinen is now calling for UEFA to speed up its development programme for artificial turf. “I am eagerly waiting for UEFA to sanction artificial turf for its competitions. In our case, there is an urgent need because our home teams will always be among the top two or three teams in the Finnish Premier League, which means they’ll be in UEFA competitions.”
Enter your email address to join:
Seminar Presentations Now Available
Follow the link for presentations given at The Sports Facility Show, Ravenscraig, 30 April 2013.
The Sports Facility Show
The second Sports Facility Show for 2013 will be held at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry on 27 June 2013.
Learn more and register...