The Final of the FIFA U-17 World Championship Finland 2003, was the first time a surface other than natural grass had been used at a FIFA finals tournament.
With football’s ongoing popularity only checked in some countries by extreme weather conditions, Finland 2003 was seen as the ideal location and the perfect opportunity to try out the synthetic turf and assess its performance. The Finnish capital’s 11,000-seat Töölö stadium – a ground that might well have remained empty for large chunks of the year – was chosen as the physical laboratory for the test.
After the tournament, Finland coach Jyrki Heliskoski said “I believe this is the solution for the future of football in Finland,” he added, “With our long, hard winters, it could extend our season by two or three months and that could be invaluable for Finnish football.”
Finland has 964 registered Football clubs, with 207 full size pitches as of 2012. Player participation in males has seen a 26% increase since 2004. On synthetic pitch development, it is believed that more and more pitches will be installed in future by football clubs rather than municipalities, 44% of pitches funded by the UEFA Hatrick Fund. It is estimated there will be another 140 additional full size synthetic turf pitches by 2019 and approximately 550 mini synthetic turf pitches by 2020.