2020 ESTC conference confirmed

The ESTC announced today the dates and venue for the 2020 conference.

Next’ year event will be held on 1 and 2 April with Working Group meetings scheduled for the first day and conference speakers lined up for the second day. The organising team is currently also working on arrangements for site-visits on 3 April.

The conference theme will be: Synthetic turf in a changing society.

The event will be hosted at the Ambassadeur Hotel in Antibes, Juan les Pins in France.

ESTC conferences are the biggest gatherings of professionals in the synthetic turf industry within the EMEA region. Apart from receiving the latest updates on trends and developments, the events also provide ample opportunity to network and meet other people from the industry.

ESTC and SASPI strengthen ties

The EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) and the South African Sports and Play Industry (SASPI) have agreed to further explore opportunities to jointly develop the synthetic turf industry in Africa.

Representatives of both organisations used the FSB Show in Cologne, Germany, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to closely work together in the interest of both the synthetic turf industry and the market.

“Africa is a very important continent for us as most of our members develop synthetic turf solutions with the diversity of Africa’s climate and geographical conditions in mind. We are very pleased to know that SASPI shares our eagerness to further develop the market. SASPI is a well-established organisation and unites almost all quality players in the market for synthetic turf in South Africa. A close partnership would certainly help both SASPI and the ESTC to take matters to the next level,” says ESTC Director General Stefan Diderich.

ESTC is the industry association for the synthetic turf industry in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa. It closely works with the Synthetic Turf Council (STC) in North-America and serves as the forum to promote, develop, grow and advocate for the synthetic turf industry.

“Synthetic turf provides a water and energy-saving solution to green gardens and public spaces as well as delivering a quality and safe sports surface in any location. However, it is important that investors spend their money correctly. Therefore the ESTC continuously liaise with authorities at every level to develop and improve the quality standards for the industry,” Diderich adds.

Good examples are the quality guidelines that the ESTC recently introduced for landscaping turf, and the improved quality standard for UV-testing. “By embracing our protocol for UV-testing, FIFA, World Rugby and FIH have made sure that clubs and players will have more joy from their investment.”

SASPI CEO Jeremy Stewart views a partnership as a way to further inform and educate the market. “South Africa is in the unique position of being the only country on the African continent that has a well-established synthetic turf production and installation industry. A close relationship with the ESTC would really help us in guiding and educating our market and helping the end-user to invest their money wisely.”

Vote of confidence for Council

The ESTC Council has received a vote of confidence from its members. The three members whose seats were up for election, have all been re-elected. The council has been further strengthened with the election of Stefaan Florquin (Re-Match).

The ESTC Council is made up of 10 members, including two vice-presidents, who are elected for a 3-year period.

Elections were needed as the term of four council members was coming to an end on the of November 1st. Three of the Council members indicated that they would like to extend their participation in the Council and would stand for re-election. They were challenged by several other members keen to join the Council.

ESTC members were invited to cast their vote for the council members during September and October. The final result is that Friedemann Söll of Polytan, Luca Girelli of Trocellen and Frenk Stoop of Sekisui Alveo have been re-elected and that Stefaan Florquin will join the Council.

“The fact that three current Council members have been re-elected shows that the work that is being done is appreciated by the membership. There are many challenges ahead but we are confident that with a strong Council in place, and the support of an active membership, these challenges can be met,” ESTC Director General Stefan Diderich says. “The ESTC Council wishes to thank outgoing Council member Aurélien Leblan (Labosport) for his commitment to the Council over the past years.”

Executive Chairman: Stefan Diderich
Vice President: Friedemann Söll, Polytan
Vice President: Hein Heerink, TenCate Grass

Council members:
Frenk Stoop (Sekisui Alveo)
Luca Girelli (Trocellen)
Stefaan Florquin (Re-Match)
Massimo Seghezzi (Radici P Industries)
Gert-Jan Kieft (Kiwa ISA Sport)
Jaroslav Buda (Juta)
Frédéric Rasschaert (BFS Europe)
Susanne Thillaye (Eurofield)

Technical Consultant: Alastair Cox
Director of Operations: Natasja Faelens

EC will welcome ESTC PEF input

The European Commissions has responded positively to the ESTC proposal to help draft the Product Environmental Footprint regulation on synthetic turf.

An ESTC delegation presented the proposal to the EU in mid-September.

“Convincing the EC that drafting a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) regulation for synthetic turf is essential and is a big achievement as we were competing for this recognition with several other industries. In most cases, the turnover and number of products these industries represented were higher than those we tabled. Nevertheless, we managed to convince the EU of the importance of synthetic turf by pointing out the positive contributions it makes to society,” says ESTC Director General Stefan Diderich.

The recognition is only the first step. “With our proposal accepted, we now have to establish a taskforce that will spearhead the drafting of the document. We also have to secure the funding for this project. Therefore, we call on our members and the industry to reconsider their involvement in the industry by jumping at this opportunity to actively make things happen.”

Changing attitude
Without taking anything from the delegation who presented the proposal, the ESTC is also sensing a changing attitude. “Our vocal response in the debate about PAHs or microplastics, as well as our proactive approach towards institutions like the EU, FIFA, FIH or World Rugby, haven’t gone unnoticed. FIFA has already embraced the ESTC as being the representative for the synthetic turf industry and the positive response from the EU shows that they too see and understand our significance.”

People and companies keen to get involved in the drafting of the document can visit the ESTC stand during the upcoming FSB event. This event will take place from 5 November to 8 November at the Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. The ESTC stand will be located in Hall 10.2, A24.

“We will also host a teleconference early next year to update our members. Obviously, the PEF will also be on the agenda for our conference in Nice on 1 and 2 April 2020.”

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ESTC statement on PFAS

Concerns have been raised over the possible presence of PFAS in synthetic turf fields. The PFAS substance group contains over 6,000 substances, some of which have been identified as toxic or hardly degradable. Linking the presence of PFAS in soil to synthetic turf is unjustified and premature.

PFAS are a broad group of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemical compounds that are used for their fire-resistant, dirt-repellent and water-repellent properties. They have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are used in many everyday items such as paint, fire-fighting foam, non-stick pans, clothing, cosmetics and pizza boxes.

Due to the widespread use of PFAS, testing for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds runs a high risk of cross-contamination and false positive results.

Manufacturers in Europe have to comply with standards, protocols and quantity restrictions legislated by the EU. Since 2006 they also have to comply with the REACH regulation, which addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impact on both human health and the environment.

Under REACH, companies using PFAS are required to have their negative impact on human beings assessed. They will only be allowed to use a PFAS when the substance is considered not harmful.

The ESTC is currently monitoring the debate and will update members and the industry once we have received additional information.

ESTC delegation delivers PEF presentation

The ESTC delivered a presentation to the European Commission this morning to convince the commission to make the synthetic turf industry part of their panel that will develop a harmonised environmental footprint methodology.

The European Union wants to develop a harmonised environmental footprint methodology that should help to determine the environmental footprint of products. Harmonising the measuring criteria will help with the correct labelling of products and should close the door on so-called ‘green-washing’ practices whereby claims or logos are being used without having been validated by a qualified and independent authority. Most of these claims are about the environmental impact or friendliness of a product.

“The ESTC is in a perfect position to explain the shortcomings of current programmes and the need for a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology. However, the number of seats at the table is limited and the synthetic turf industry is one of many industries that want to be in on it,” explained ESTC Director General, Stefan Diderich, upon his return. “As we recently decided to actively pursue a closer relationship with institutions like the EU, today’s presentation was the first but they will definitely see us more often in the future,” he adds.

“We explained why this process is important to our industry and why we feel we could make a meaningful contribution. Our presentation was received well but we will only hear in mid-October whether our proposal has been accepted.”



ECHA makes decision on PAHs limits

The Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) has adopted its final opinion supporting the proposal for restricting eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in granules and mulches used, for example, in synthetic turf pitches and playgrounds.

The restriction proposal lowers the total concentration limit of eight PAHs to 20 mg/kg (0.002 % by weight). The concentration limits for PAHs in mixtures supplied to the general public are currently set at 100 mg/kg or 1 000 mg/kg for each of the substances.

Following SEAC’s adoption of its final opinion, the opinions of both RAC and SEAC will be forwarded to the European Commission. The Commission will consider if the conditions for the restriction are met, prepare a draft restriction measure to amend the REACH Restrictions list (Annex XVII) and submit this for an opinion to Member States in the REACH Committee.

ESTC Director General, Stefan Diderich is very pleased with SEAC’s decision. “We are very pleased to hear that ECHA’s scientific committees support a maximum that was proposed by the industry itself. This clearly demonstrates that the synthetic turf industry is mature enough to deal with complicated issues and to implement self-regulation that serves stakeholders both within and without the industry. It fills me with pride to know that the ESTC and some of our members were amongst those supplying all necessary information and documentation that assisted in the process of drafting this recommendation. I am confident that this pro-active approach will continue to serve the industry in the future.”

Council vacancies

For some members of the ESTC Council, the term of office comes to an end in November this year.  This means that we are looking for candidates to fill these positions.  
Composition of the ESTC Council 
The Council consists of max 6 representatives from yarn and turf producing companies and max 4 representatives from companies, other than yarn and turf producing companies (plus the Executive Chairman).  The  Council members are elected for a period of 3 years and can be re-elected again.  
The Council members will be elected by all full members.  
The role of the ESTC Council
 We are fortunate to have a group of highly-committed individuals on the current Council that are willing to share their expertise and experience.  The role of an ESTC Council member is an important one, helping to create ESTC’s strategic direction and implement its objectives.  The Council members act as industry leaders in developing and promoting the work of ESTC and ensuring that ESTC serves its members effectively.
As far as time commitment is concerned, the Council meets in person 2-3 times a year and has regular phone conferences (around every 6 weeks).
Current Council members 
·            Friedemann Söll – Polytan (Vice-Chairman & Treasurer)*
·           Hein Heerink – Ten Cate (Vice-Chairman)
·            Aurélien Leblan – Labosport* 
·            Luca Girelli – Trocellen*
·            Frenk Stoop – Sekisui Alveo* 
·           Gert-Jan Kieft – Kiwa ISA Sport
·            Jaroslav Buda – Juta 
·            Massimo Seghezzi – Sit-In Sport 
·           Frédéric Rasschaert – BFS Europe
·         Susanne Thillaye – Eurofield
·         Stefan Diderich – Director General/CEO
* end of term of office in November 2019
We have 4 positions to be filled : 1 for a representative from a yarn and turf producing company and 3 for representatives from non-yarn and turf producing companies.  Note – the Council members whose term of office ends in November can be re-elected again.
Should there be more candidates than positions to be filled, a vote will occur among all full members.  
If you are interested to apply for one these positions, please let Stefan or Natasja know by September 30th, 2019 latest.

ESTC answers EU call for PEF-study

The ESTC has submitted a proposal to assist the European Union in establishing the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) for synthetic turf.

The proposal follows a call from the EU to develop a harmonised environmental footprinting methodology that can accommodate a broad suite of relevant environmental performance criteria for a variety of products and industries (EU Single Market Act II – 2012).

Harmonising the measuring criteria will help the correct labelling of products and should close the door on so-called ‘green-washing’ practices whereby claims or logos are being used randomly without having the validity verified by a qualified and independent authority. Most of these claims are about the environmental impact or friendliness of a product.

“The nature of our product and industry means that we want to be involved in drafting these criteria. The synthetic turf industry has already been working for years to develop more sustainable products and systems. Collectively firms have invested billions to this achieve this and many of them have already succeeded. All that is missing is an official framework to further guide or recognise these improvements and achievements, thereby protecting these efforts from unscrupulous companies making similar but unwarranted claims,” says ESTC Director General, Stefan Diderich.

The proposal has been drafted together with the European Carpet and Rug Association (ECRA).

“As we anticipate other industries also being eager to participate in the drafting of a Product Environmental Footprint, we have decided to join hands with ECRA in case the EU has to make a selection. The combined impact of our industries should warrant the EU including us in the drafting process.”

Synthetic turf helps MLB to deliver

Since the American Major League Baseball organization targeted Europe as a key growth market, it knew upfront that the stakes would be high for any baseball game played on European soil. The London Olympic stadium was identified as being the perfect venue. The synthetic surface temporarily installed for the fantastic event delivered the finishing touch.

Following successful baseball campaigns in Australia, Japan, Mexico and Puerto Rico, American Major League Baseball (MLB) decided that the time had come to bring the game to Europe. They were well-aware that they were in for a massive challenge. The sport certainly has a significant following in Europe but finding a suitable venue would be a challenge of a different magnitude as there is no baseball-specific venue in Europe that could accommodate large groups of fans. Knowing that Londoners are ‘big event-goers’ and that the English capital hosts sold-out events frequently, the suggestion of MLB to consider the former London Olympic Stadium was well-received. The presence of an athletics track meant that the dimensions of the venue would afford enough space to fit a baseball field. Being a former Olympic venue, London Stadium still has many, if not all, facilities and quality standards that the MLB considered vital to delivering a game of huge magnitude. As the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees quickly expressed specific interest in participating in the London Games, the MLB knew that it had secured all the ingredients necessary to establish a new benchmark. All that was left was to set for a date that would allow the preparation of the field at a time where the climate conditions would be best.

London Olympic Stadium is the home ground of West-Ham United F.C. and their summer break would be the best time-frame to change the field into a baseball field. With a concert scheduled for 1 June and a Diamond League athletics meeting scheduled for 20 and 21 July, dates in late June were be the only possibility left. All parties settled on 29-30 June 2019 to host two Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees games.

Flexible solution

With only three weeks to establish a field and another three weeks to return the venue to its official state, the decision was made to install a synthetic turf surface. Natural grass was not an option due to the little time available for the installation of the field, as well as the fact that, once removed, it couldn’t be used again in 2020. The 2019 event is the first part of a two-year deal. With rain hampering the preparations during 16 of the first 18 days, the organizers certainly counted their blessings for settling on a synthetic turf surface.

FieldTurf was contracted to produce the surface. They shipped over 15,000 square meters of its FieldTurf Vertex carpet from their plant in Auchel, France to the London venue. The carpet combines six ridged monofilament fibers that are tufted with one slit film fiber per tuft. This combination delivers an exceptional resilience and contributes to an appearance and behavior that resembles a natural turf field. A mixture of standard SBR, cryogen SBR and sand provides players with the required stability. Clay for the pitcher’s mound and home plate area, as well as dirt for the infield, was shipped in from the USA.

For the preparations, installation and removal of the field, MLB relied on input from local partners. They awarded the project to Hewitt Sportsturf and Slatter Sports Construction. Both companies are local partners for ESTC member FieldTurf Tarkett. J&E Sports, another ESTC member, was subcontracted to the project. All in all, 110 experts from the various companies were on site day and night, resulting in on-time delivery and the removal of the field in just under three days. All components used are currently safely stored in a warehouse near London to enable the use of synthetic turf for the 2020 games again.

Well received

The two games in London were the first ever at which the Red Sox faced the Yankees outside the USA. They were also the first in which both teams competed on synthetic turf. It didn’t bother either the management or players of either team. ‘It’s the first Yankees-Red Sox game out of the country, so why not a lot of firsts?‘ New York pitcher CC Sabathia remarked when asked by an AP reporter. ‘I think it will be fine,’ he added. Synthetic turf is the surface of choice in many USA lower league baseball competitions. It is also the surface used for the home grounds of MLB teams Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays. ‘I am assuming it’s like Toronto’s or Tampa’s, so it shouldn’t be an issue,’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said in the same AP article. Boone received support from Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. ‘If we had never played on turf, it would be different, but we’ve played on turf.’

All in all 50 runs were scored with the Yankees winning both games, the most ever in consecutive games between the Yankees and the Red Sox. More importantly, both games broke or met several records in MLB history. The three first-inning home runs the Red Sox had in the second game was an accomplishment that matched their earlier feat in their August 14, 1979 game. The eighth-inning homer by Didi Gregorius during this game extended the Yankees’ record of consecutive games with a home run to 31. The first game lasted for 4 hours and 42 minutes, three minutes shorter than the longest nine-inning game in MLB history. The 30 total runs scored during this game, were the second-most ever. Most importantly, perhaps, the attendance of 59,659 was the highest at any MLB game since September 28, 2003. Such attendance truly reflects the viability of hosting MLB games in Europe, while the temporary synthetic turf surface has proven its worth. ‘Around a third of the spectators at the baseball games came from overseas, generating millions of pounds for London’s hotel, restaurant and retail industries,’ London Stadium CEO Graham Gilmore said while pointing out how his venue and London had benefitted from the game. The London Stadium alone sold 80,000 pints of beer, 10,000 hotdogs and 2,600 bags of monkey nuts.

More in stock

The 2019 games were part of a two-year agreement. If things work out well, they might soon be considered the curtain-raiser for much more than just four games. ‘We are in advanced talks with MLB about a new contract from 2021 onwards,’ Gilmore announced. He knows already that in June 2020 the London Stadium will host the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. Both clubs also have a long-standing rivalry that will certainly fuel a need for victory.

Baseball fans all over Europe are eager to learn what will happen after next year’s games. Rumour has it that France is also keen to host a baseball event. If that is the case, MLB could follow suit with the American NBA and NFL and start incorporating European venues in its regular calendar. One thing for sure is that there is no need to worry about the surface or the ability of the synthetic turf industry to meet all requirements. Based on the several new records that have been set and feedback received from the fans, it can truly be said that they managed to deliver.