The reason we developed this technology was related to the almost unbearable thought that all football in future would be played on artificial grass. Clearly, stadiums were becoming larger and larger, and requirements for crowd comfort were increasing as well. The thought of indoor football in large stadiums throughout the winter was enticing, but it meant that there would be no way around playing on artificial grass. There had to be an alternative - we manage to grow tomatoes and cucumbers indoors in winter - and so the idea began to mature.
Good conditions on pitches and in stadiums are important for performance. The body is our most important tool. Healthy natural grass forms the best basis and encourages more activity.
Health issues - Natural grass vs artificial grass
The same day that UEFA approved the use of artificial grass pitches, they stated: “A good natural grass pitch is to be preferred over any artificial grass pitch. On the other hand, a good artificial grass pitch is to be preferred over a bad natural grass pitch.” Our goal at MLR is to ensure good natural grass pitches. Natural grass cleans itself, and ensures a naturally softened impact. Genuine grass is still the best.
What football is ment to be played on
nternational scepticism with respect to injuries
There are now 350 artificial grass pitches in Norway, of which 80 were built last year. If this development continues, we will end up with plastic everywhere – and not only in Norway. Norwegian players are not alone in criticising artificial grass. Some 88% of the German and Dutch professional players say no to artificial surfaces. Some 1,129 Germans and Dutch professional players have participated in the surveys. Over 80% of the German players give the greater risk for injuries as the main reason for their scepticism. Over half of the German players are of the opinion that artificial grass has a negative effect on the quality of the game.
Natural grass creates natural friction when feet hit the ground. A hard artificial grass pitch can result in injuries due to wear and tear and shorter sports careers due to the daily strain on knees and joints.
In 2005, NISO (Norske Idrettsutøveres Sentralorganisasjon – an organisation of Norwegian sportsmen and women) conducted a survey among 359 players in the Norwegian football's Premier League, the Adecco League and the top series for women. With respect to injuries, 74.37% of the players state that they believe artificial grass causes the most injuries. The equivalent number for natural grass is 2.51%. 40.59% responded that they have had injuries that were caused by an artificial grass surface, while the equivalent percentage for natural grass is 5.2%. All of 96.38% of the players are of the opinion that frequent changing of the surface causes more injuries.
Poor air quality in artificial grass stadiums
With so much training done and so many games played indoors, good air quality is a necessary condition for Norwegian football players. Ideally, 100 per cent of the players should respond that the air quality is good or very good in Norwegian indoor sports facilities that have artificial grass pitches, but only 11.02% placed the quality of the air in the “good” or “very good” categories in NISO’s summer 2005 player survey. 35.87% characterised the air quality as “poor” or “very poor”.
The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) has identified several environmental toxins found at artificial grass pitches.
“There are substances that disturb hormones and some of these are used as cytotoxins. The chemicals we have found can be dangerous to humans and the environment,” says NILU.
Unknown risk of infection
Professor Daum at the Chicago Children’s Hospital was the first to see the connection between abrasions from artificial grass and infections of the life-threatening, antibiotic-resistant CA-MRSA, which is a type of staphylococcus. In Norway, NISO questioned whether the blood, spit and snuff that remained on the pitch represented a real danger of infection. In 2005, then asked the Norwegian National Institute of Public Health to investigate protective measures against infection from artificial grass pitches.
The National Institute of Public Health concluded the following: “We cannot see that artificial grass leads to increased risk of infections in sores or transfer of viruses that infect via blood in relation to natural grass or gravel pitches. On a general basis, we recommend standard routines for care of wounds to prevent infections. Standard guidelines for preventing infection via blood in contact sports already exist.” The letter of response was signed by Preben Aavitsland, Division Director, and Dr Bjørn G. Iversen, Chief Physician.
NISO was pleased that the National Institute of Public Health took the time to investigate with respect to their query. They were still of the opinion that they had not received a sufficient answer to questions surrounding the cleaning of artificial grass. Therefore, they followed the issue further. American health authorities and sports associations have issued warnings, and Professor Daum received a grant of USD 3 million to investigate more closely the issues around the danger of infection.
The health authorities in Ålborg closed Denmark’s largest and most modern indoor artificial grass pitch (Giganticum) because of the danger of cancer and fungus infections.
The players have little to say
Clubs often build artificial grass pitches without consultation with their players. This is against sections 3-1 and 4-1 of the Norwegian Working Environment Act.
Section 3-1 of the Working Environment Act states, “In order to safeguard the employees’ health, environment and safety, the employer shall ensure that systematic health, environment and safety work is performed at all levels of the undertaking. This shall be carried out in cooperation with the employees and their elected representatives.” … “d) during planning and implementation of changes in the undertaking, assess whether the working environment will be in compliance with the requirements of this Act, and implement the necessary measures, …”
Section 4-1 (2) “When planning and arranging the work, emphasis shall be placed on preventing injuries and diseases.” The employer is responsible while employees shall contribute to making it happen.
Changing to artificial grass represents such a change in the undertaking. It will have significance for the employees’ (the players’) working environment.
Some of what players react to is that artificial grass removes a positive side, the charm of the sport.
• 4.1 e Facts & figures
Results from NISO’s own surveys:
354 players responded to the following questions:
How would you generally characterise the air quality in Norwegian sports facilities that have artificial grass pitches?
The responses were distributed as follows:
Very good 0.85% 3
Good 10.17% 36
Okay 46.89% 166
Poor 30.79% 109
Very poor 5.08% 18
Don’t know 6.21% 22
Total of 354 responses
Summary of NISO’s survey among its members about their opinion of artificial grass
(A total of 359 players were interviewed. The report was completed in August 2005.)
Questions for the players: The players’ opinion: %
- Are you interested in the debate about artificial grass? Yes 87.4%
- Which type of surface causes the most injuries? Artificial grass 74.4%
- Do frequent changes of the surface result in more injuries? Yes 96.4%
- Have you received injuries that were due to artificial grass? Yes 71.5%
- Should players be consulted when artificial grass is considered? Yes 91.6%
- How is the air quality in indoor sports facilities that have artificial grass? Average to very poor 82.8%
- Today, such good natural grass is on offer that artificial grass is not necessary for the entire season. Completely or partly in agreement 73.2%
- When artificial grass is used, there must be strict routines for hygiene. Spit, mucus, bits of snuff and so forth must be thoroughly cleaned away. Agreed 93.0%
- Artificial grass pitches (indoor and outdoor) must not be used for arrangements that pollute, for example for dog exhibitions. Agreed 89.3%
- The smell and feel of natural grass is a part of the charm of football. Agreed 90.4%
- NFF claims that in 10 years time, all the large clubs and national teams will be playing on artificial grass. Unlikely/probably not/ perhaps 92.7%
- Poor cleaning of artificial grass represents a danger of bacteria for injuries that involve wounds. Very probable/perhaps 81.2%
- How many months a year would you prefer to play on artificial grass? 2-5 months/1 month or less 80.5%
- NISO wants to establish a register of injuries. Do you support this? Yes 82.3%