The playing surface of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium is made of 97 per cent grass and 3 per cent synthetic fibres. The synthetic fibres are woven into the ground by giant laser-guided sewing machines. The artificial grass-like blades provide players with a more natural look and accurate playing characteristics. The full-studded boots of today’s players can be used on such a surface. However, synthetic pitches are not without their problems.
As well as compromising natural grasslands, synthetic pitches do not fit into Moreland’s sustainability strategy. These synthetic pitches are too hot during the summer, reduce access to green spaces and limit the hours of free and low-cost sport. It also reduces the hours of other healthy activities such as informal play, walking and jogging. Many grass sport fields allow dogs off leash, but synthetic pitches do not. The installation of synthetic pitches is a logistical necessity, rather than an aesthetic choice.
In France, the decision to install synthetic pitches is often left to local government. However, increased public awareness of the environmental impact of synthetic sports terrain has prompted the local government to implement a series of strategies for the coordinated removal and recycling of damaged or obsolete sports pitches. These efforts have improved traceability of recycled materials. However, these efforts are not as effective as those made to recycle tyres, and the majority of synthetic pitches end up burning in energy plants.
Aside from being cheaper to install, synthetic pitches have several advantages over grass ones. The average artificial pitch costs between PS400,000 and PS800,000. Not only does it allow for all-weather use, but it also increases revenue for pitch owners. In addition to being more suitable for all seasons, they also enable more people to play football on the same surface. This can mean a tenfold increase in player hours and improved attendance rates. The installation costs are usually less than half of grass pitches.
A hybrid pitch system is an ideal solution for smaller sports clubs and public sports facilities. It can maintain a realistic green appearance despite frequent use. While hybrid pitches are not as durable as 100% grass, they do not have the same maintenance requirements. However, they are more expensive and require a large number of specialist staff and machinery to maintain them. The downside to a hybrid pitch is that it is more expensive to maintain, which may not be an option for top-flight sports clubs.
Despite the costs of installing 3G artificial pitches, the greener the pitch, the better it looks and plays. This is evident from a recent match between Liverpool and Manchester City in the Champions League, which was cancelled due to rain. The pitch was made playable because the stadiums had proper drainage facilities in place. In contrast, in England, winter rains used to leave their football pitches so wet that they were unplayable. Players would slide around in mud, take divots and rip up the pitch. Eventually, the only green was on the field when it wasn’t raining.