I read an article today at The Equalizer written by Duane Rollins about artificial turf (AT) for the Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada. It’s not the first article I’ve read and I certainly hope it’s not the last, but this one got under my skin.
In the article, Mr. Rollins quoted Sandra Gage, chief marketing and communications officer for the organizing committee as saying ,
“We’re very comfortable with the decision that was made to play all (games) on artificial turf.”
“Going forward we do not see changing (the decision).”
You’ll have to read The Equalizer article to see the rest, but this was enough to get me hot under the collar and start my mind churning.
I started to wonder what the consequences might be of having the first ever senior level FIFA event contested entirely on artificial turf. This is what I came up with, in no particular order of importance.
Players have the perception, be it real or not, that playing on AT leads to increased chance of injury. I say real or not because you can find all manner of opinions and “findings” on the matter and even though the prevailing opinion among non-players is that the risk is not increased, it’s a hard sell to both men and women players actually on the AT pitch. So much of a players game is mental that this alone could lead to more injuries and has to be considered a tick in the minus column –
AT fields take a bigger physical toll on player’s bodies over the course of a tournament. -tick
Teams that play on grass in their home countries will be at a disadvantage. – tick
If this tournament is played entirely on AT, as Sandra Gage says it will be, it will surely be used as a wedge to get other senior level tournaments played on AT. Men’s WC2018 on AT anyone? – tick
The difference between artificial turf and grass will fundamentally change the way the game is played. Some will argue this isn’t the case, but all I have to do is point you to field hockey. The billiard table-like surface the game is played on now is a far cry from any natural grass pitch, no matter how well manicured. It has made the game so fast paced you will be hard pressed to follow the action, it is like ice hockey, minus the imperfections of the ice. I know, AT is not like a billiard table..not yet. – tick
AT, no matter what the rating, is not grass. The game was invented to be played on grass, with all it’s imperfections and charm. Do you think you will ever see the game of golf played on AT (other than the putt-putt variety)? In some communities the grass sports fields are the only green spaces for miles. Converting the acceptable way to play all these sports from grass to AT will only be incentive for communities to install substandard AT fields in place of natural grass. Not to mention that the acceptance of AT has already encouraged the multi-stripe field.
And at the end of the day, if you really must change something..make it the number of referees, or goal-line technology (I will die a slow death for that one). Let’s change the inequality between the treatment of players between the men’s and women’s game. Let’s change the culture of racism and homophobia. Let’s make the venues safe for all to come watch the ‘Beautiful Game’ on natural grass, as was always intended.
Money is, and always has been, a big consideration, but some things transcend their dollar and cents value and become valuable on another level and sometimes that justifies the expense. Some things are just meant to be the way they were invented and envisioned. I love that soccer/football is known as ‘The Beautiful Game’, I don’t want that to go away because the surface the game is played on changes the way the game is played.
I’m sure there are other things I haven’t thought of yet, feel free to enlighten me in the comments.