How three sports came together over artificial turf

World Rugby, the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) and FIFA have had a memorandum of understanding in place for a number of years with the common goal of ensuring high quality artificial turf in their respective sports.

Shared research, common testing and joint effects with the industry, but most notably cooperation for the sake of developing sport have been the outcome of a decade of cooperation. We take a look back at the origins and ask how the protagonists see the future of artificial turf.

Starting in 2010, Rugby and Football were looking for a durable alternative to natural grass and discovered that many of the issues around player welfare and the technical expectations from the surface were similar. Turning to field hockey, which had embraced artificial surfaces several decades earlier due to the perceived superior consistency of an engineered surface, the three federations set a joint agenda with a vision to ensure artificial turf offers a high quality solution for playing the respective sports irrespective of financial, climatic and geographical considerations.

A relationship has grown that sees exchange on almost a weekly basis between the main stakeholders in the federations, something not too common in the sporting world. Far from coming to an end, the future promised for these federations to increase their cooperation with new trends around player welfare and sports technologies equally developing in the three sports.

The sports of hockey, football and rugby are the biggest users of synthetic turf pitches, globally. All three sports have a desire to ensure good quality, durable facilities are provided for their athletes. By sharing knowledge, pooling resources and working together FIFA, World Rugby and the FIH can provide a consistent message to those manufacturing and developing synthetic turf fields. This has resulted in higher quality, lower cost fields being produced that helps the growth of all three sports. From sharing developments in testing methods, producing the One Turf Standard, addressing environmental and regulatory issue and presenting and exhibiting together, FIH welcomes the opportunity to work with our colleagues from FIFA and World Rugby. Together the three sports are ensuring the development of synthetic turf surfaces is happening in a way that works for all.

Alastair Cox FIH Facilities and Quality Programme Manager

The relationship between World Rugby, FIFA and FIH is seen as a significant driver of Player Welfare within the sport of rugby globally. Regulation 22 is built upon the ethos of improving Player Welfare through evidence based research and the assistance of FIFA and FIH in this has been integral to the development of our standards over the last 10 years. The close working relationship and efforts to align the approach of the three IFs, while unusual in the sporting context, has been mutually beneficial in achieving the overall aim of artificial turf regulation, reducing risk to players and improving quality of fields. Initiatives such as the One Turf concept, aligning Round Robin processes and combined promotional messages, can only serve to strengthen this relationship moving forward. World Rugby anticipate that this can only be beneficial for the industry and in particular those investing in artificial turf fields.

Marc Douglas World Rugby Research Turf & Equipment Manager