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Football’s Complicated Relationship With Artificial Turf

Football’s complicated relationship with artificial turf

A slick playing surface is integral to a professional sports team’s success. Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the Premier League all but redefined the role of the Premier League groundskeeper. A playable surface was no longer the mark of a competent groundsman; nothing less than a pristine surface – watered and mowed to the manager’s precise requirements – became acceptable. The Manchester City manager imposed stringent demands on his grounds staff; the grass at the Etihad had to be shorn to catalyse the speed and precision of City’s new passing game.

But the quality of the playing surface isn’t the only consideration for sports teams. There are financial and environmental quandaries to mull over too. Renewed scrutiny of playing surfaces has led to more serious discussions of alternatives to natural grass and, in 2014, the Football League voted on whether to reintroduce artificial grass pitches.

Football’s complicated relationship with artificial grass began four decades ago. In the 1980s, several Football League teams installed AstroTurf. At first, it was praised as a forward-thinking move; later, it was derided by opposition players and fans – who lamented the advantage it supposedly gave the home team. By 1994, AstroTurf pitches had disappeared from the professional game in England; and a year later, they were banned indefinitely.

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