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Synthetic Sport Pitches Standards 2016

The Synthetic Sport Pitches Standards 2016 has been changed. Testing bodies of the artificial grass sport pitches now have different criteria to pass the surfacing. As you will be aware, FIFA published their new manual for football turf in October 2015. Please be sure to keep updated with these changes if you already have a synthetic turf sports pitch, or if you are thinking of having one built. Many sporting organisations and schools make use of artificial 3G pitches for a number of activities, so it’s important to be aware of the standards which are required for these surfaces.

Below is a brief summary of the changes:

  • No more FIFA 1 star and FIFA 2 star, they have been replaced with FIFA Quality and FIFA Quality Pro.
  • IATS (International Artificial Turf Standard) has been rebranded IMS (International Match Standard); this will follow the requirements of FIFA Quality for suppliers that do not have a FIFA licences.
  • FIFA Quality Pro lasts 1 year as before but there will be no automatic downgrade to FIFA Quality.
  • FIFA Quality will last 3 years (previously this was 4 years under 1 star).
  • All products / colours will need independent product tests (including lines and logos).
  • No combinations of different products may be used on a single field (i.e. you can’t use alternating coloured rows).
  • There are tighter requirements for laboratory product testing.
  • Several new methods for lab testing including LISport XL, splash, heat.
  • Recommendations for the testing of run-off areas (both with natural and artificial playing surfaces) have been included in this handbook.
  • Additional requirements for consistency on field testing.
  • Ball roll requirement for re-test on FIFA Quality Pro reduced from 10 m to 8 m – big issue for stadium pitches that want high levels of community engagement.
  • New products can be tested to the 2015 manual with immediate effect.
  • New field installations can be tested to the 2015 manual from early 2016.
  • 2012 version will continue to be valid for the duration of 2016.
  • January 2017 onwards only the new manual will be valid.

Labosport commentary:

  • Based on our initial testing many current systems will struggle to meet the new 2015 standard. This includes many of the products commonly specified on current tenders.
  • Many systems will need to be modified or upgraded to make them comply with the new 2015 manual.
  • Shockpads will become more important for football surfaces to help meet the requirements.
  • There will be fewer Quality Pro and Quality systems combined, we anticipate a bigger separation of systems between the two levels of the standard.
  • 8 m ball roll requirement for FIFA Quality Pro will cause problems in the short-term for the business case in stadia pitches. Until new products are developed it is unlikely many existing surfaces will be able to cope with 40 + hours / week and last more than 3 / 4 years.

Please note: whilst the focus of this change is Football/FIFA; World Rugby will follow with a similar update due June 2016. The implementation of this will follow the same timeframe as FIFA (as above).

As the Synthetic Sport Pitches Standards 2016 have changed this will mean many existing pitches might not meet the new guidelines set out by the governing bodies. For anyone thinking of having a new 3G sport surfaces installed, please make yourself aware of the new standards for 2016 if you want to have a top quality facility. Make sure you keep on top of your maintenance to your artificial surfacing to ensure the best playing qualities for anyone using the pitch. For more information on the maintenance or testing standards please complete the contact box and we can send you information on this.

About the author

Director at Soft Surfaces Ltd which constructs artificial sports pitches and play areas throughout the UK. Sports enthusiast who plays football regularly and co-founder of @FatRank which helps others with SEO, PPC, WordPress and Specialist Web Marketing.

James Dooley – who has written posts on Sports and Safety Surfaces.



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