Next time you go to watch your favourite football match take a closer look at the football pitch. What looks like perfectly mowed, lush green grass on the football pitch is not natural grass, but artificial grass.
Manufactured from synthetic materials like polypropylene or polyethylene, an artificial turf pitch can be used for a number of sports, including football, hockey, baseball, athletics, tennis, and many more. FIFA and UEFA have endorsed these synthetic sports surfaces due to their features of durability, slip resistance, shock absorbency, and most importantly, their need for minimal maintenance. The artificial sports surfaces comprise a solid base, which is designed to offer stability to the top layer of synthetic grass fibres. The base also offers an effective drainage system, making the synthetic turf ready for play in all weather conditions. The top layer, also known as the man-made grass carpet, is made of artificial grass fibres tufted onto a backing cloth and in -filled with sand or a mixture of sand and rubber granules. However, some varieties of artificial sports pitches may not be in -filled with sand or rubber. These are known as water based sports pitches.
Yet another advantage offered by artificial sports surfaces is that their playing characteristics can be altered significantly by changing the length and density of the fibres. At the recreational level, a football pitch featuring artificial grass with sand infill and needle-punch carpets is adequate. Such a football pitch also has a shock pad just beneath the top layer which protects the players from injuries.
On the other hand, elite level football is played on third generation artificial grass. These “next generation” or “third generation” artificial grass surfaces are generally regarded as being about as safe to play as natural grass. In this case, the football pitch comprises grass fibres that are made of a soft material known as polyethylene. These fibres are dressed with a mixture of rubber crumbs and sand. Such a football pitch offers the same playing qualities as that of natural grass. FIFA favours more thinly spaced longer fibres for their soccer turf.
Artificial grass is also used for making synthetic athletic surfaces. It consists of SBR granules blended with polyurethane binders in a special mixing machine which when applied to the surface creates a durable, porous, and uniform track. Such a slip resistant track offers more protection to athletes.