The English Football Association votes in support of synthetic turf pitches

Synthetic turf pitches are set to make a return to all levels of English football following a recent meeting of the FA Board.

Chaired by FA Chairman Greg Dyke, the 12-person committee agreed to lead by example and seek to change the perception of synthetic turf across the top tiers of English football by voting to allow the use of synthetic turf across all levels of the English game.  

The issue has recently been brought to light by Ryman Premier League side Maidstone United, who, despite currently in second place, the club has been told it won’t be allowed to compete in the play-offs due to the restriction on the use of synthetic turf in higher leagues. Maidstone United installed the synthetic turf surface in 2012 and has since reported demonstrable benefits from the new pitch; fewer fixtures cancelled due to inclement weather, greater engagement with community groups and clubs and increasing sustainable revenues from the hire of the new facility. With Maidstone providing compelling evidence to support the wider benefits of synthetic turf and some excellent examples of clubs at the highest levels of European football competing on synthetic turf, The English FA have now acted to look at aligning their rules with those of other major football associations.    

As part of the ruling, The FA will be reviewing the rules for The FA Cup, England’s oldest cup competition, to allow the use of synthetic turf in fixtures leading up to the semi-finals.

Commenting on the news, Nigel Fletcher, ESTO executive chairman, said: “This is a significant development for the synthetic turf industry; the reintroduction of the surface in England will help clubs and communities develop football and strengthen the sport at all levels of the pyramid. We only have to look at case studies in Scotland, Norway and the Netherlands to see how clubs can benefit on and off the field. For many lower league clubs, synthetic turf is a major asset and the driver of football development.
“The decision by the Football Association shows fantastic progress and follows best practice in Europe. For clubs at semi-professional and lower league levels this will revolutionise English football; having synthetic turf will ensure club, youth and community development thanks to the many advantages that exist from installing synthetic turf.”

In recent years, ESTO has focused on consumer research within clubs and football associations throughout Europe and at all levels of the sport, to encourage the advocacy of the surface. All of which makes ever stronger arguments for using the surface across all levels of the game. Independent research, publications and case studies can be viewed online at
Further details regarding the FA’s decision will be released in due course.

ESTO Congress 2013 a huge success

The famous Albert Dock in Liverpool, England played host to the 4th annual ESTO Congress on September 26th and 27th, bringing together ESTO members as well as national and international sports federations to discuss and debate the future of synthetic turf and the crucial role ESTO will play in its development.

A well-attended delegation took an active part in two busy days of cutting edge content from a variety of industry respected speakers. Mark Pover from the English FA, Antonio Armeni from LND in Italy and Karolina Kristenson, who is an MD PhD graduate working with Jan Ekstrand’s Football Research Group at Linköping University were the ‘big hitting’ line-up of speakers in the first session on day one.

Nigel Fletcher, ESTO’s Executive Chairman took to the stage for the second half of the day, giving a major insight into next year outlining in clear terms the many new benefits for members, both direct and indirect benefits. The focus will be giving members even more benefits whilst positioning ESTO as an Independent and neutral source for objective information, data and for more persons to understand the benefits of synthetic turf.

Other speakers in the afternoon session included Piet Tytgat from Recticel, Daniel Shockmann from Genan, Mats Johnsson from Ashurst and Alastair Cox from Labosport. Nigel Fletcher from ESTO brought day one to a close with some final conclusions before the delegates moved on to the PanAm bar on the famous docks to eat, drink and network during the evening whilst taking in the sounds of the FabBeatles – a nod to Liverpool’s most famous exports!
ESTO itself took centre stage at the start of day two of the Congress with Nigel Fletcher giving everyone a review of the ESTO membership benefits and its next steps, showcasing the new website, the Market Report – Vision 2020 with Robin Russell, former management team member at the English FA and technical consultant to UEFA. The ESTO Market report is a landmark publication. In this opening to the second day members were also shown again the new digital ESTO member directory plus a host of other new benefits and services that the ESTO membership can now enjoy.

The Congress then moved on to presentations from the two biggest international federations in attendance, and strong advocates of synthetic turf; FIFA and the IRB. Steve Griffiths from the IRB then handed back to Nigel Fletcher to take those in attendance through a key development in the ESTO landscaping development before rounding the Congress up with a brief summary and look forward to the rest of 2013 and beyond.

The next ESTO congress will take place in Istanbul in 2014 and we once again very much look forward to welcoming all of our members and colleagues to what we hope will be another successful event.

Saracens RFU

Case study: Saracens RFC champion the use of synthetic turf in professional rugby

In January 2013, Aviva Premiership side Saracens RFC unveiled their new synthetic turf pitch at Allianz Stadium, marking a breakthrough for professional sport in England as the club became the first professional English rugby union side to play on synthetic turf.

Despite reservations from some, feedback so far would suggest that such concerns have been refuted, with positive reports from players and coaches alike.

Following one of the first training sessions on the pitch and in an interview with BBC London News, Saracens’ hooker Schalk Brits said, “I’ve been quite impressed with how soft the surface is; first impressions are very good,” whilst fly-half Owen Farrell commented how quick play remained, despite training in adverse weather conditions.

With momentum building, only strengthened by the reported success of the synthetic surface at Allianz Stadium, RaboDirect Pro12 side Cardiff Blues look set to follow in Saracens’ footsteps. The club announced in May 2013 that they are the process of seeking permission from the Welsh Rugby Union to replace the natural turf at Cardiff Arms Park with a synthetic surface, following criticism of the existing pitch since the side returned to the stadium in 2012.

Wales’ national ground, the Millennium Stadium, has also become infamous for its problematic surface, which is currently being replaced several times a year to combat such problems. At the time of the install at Allianz Park, Roger Lewis, group CEO of WRU and Millennium Stadium said: “We will study this very carefully because we will only do it if it’s right for rugby; if we can achieve it, it will save the Welsh Rugby Union millions of pounds.”

To read the full case study on the synthetic turf install at Allianz Stadium, click here.

Maidenhead RFU

Case study: Maidenhead RFC celebrates one year anniversary since installing first ever ‘One Turf’ pitch

In the summer of 2012, English rugby union side Maidenhead RFC achieved a worldwide first as the club became owners of the first ever ‘One Turf’ pitch.
Now one year on, Maidenhead RFC has enjoyed a full season with the synthetic turf surface in use and feedback from its six senior sides and youth section has been very positive.

“The new pitch has allowed the club to continue to grow and feedback throughout our age groups has been excellent,” confirmed Maidenhead RFC chairman Steve Bough.

“We find that those who are new to the surface can be curious initially, but as soon as they start playing any reservations they may have had are soon forgotten.”

The new pitch came at the same time as a clubhouse extension and refurbishment, as Maidenhead RFC works towards increasing its community presence and involvement.

“Since the install of the new pitch, almost all county rugby is now based at our club because of the high levels of availability facilitated by the synthetic surface. We are also in talks with a local school who are interested in moving their sports curriculum to our facility,” confirmed Steve.

“We are extremely proud of the facilities at Maidenhead RFC and look forward to new and existing members, visitors and the local community enjoying them for years to come.”

Click here to download a case study of the install.

Fourth annual ESTO Congress set for Liverpool on 26-27 September 2013

The 2013 ESTO Congress will be taking place in Liverpool, England this autumn and time is running out to secure your place at the discounted rate with the early bird participation fee ending on Sunday 30 June.

The fourth annual ESTO Congress, which is taking place on 26 – 27 September at the Jurys Inn, Liverpool, will bring together representatives from ESTO, its member organisations and experts from the industry for debate, discussion and networking.

The participation fee, which includes meeting and dinner, is priced at 150 € per person for all bookings before 30 June. From Monday 1 July, the participation fee will be priced at 300 € per person.

Companies that have paid their membership fees within the deadline that was set can delegate one person to attend the Congress free of charge.

To download the booking form, please click here.

ESTO chairman Nigel Fletcher will be opening the two day event with a presentation, reviewing successes over the last 12 months and discussing upcoming plans and initiatives for members.

Mats Johnsson, partner at international law firm Ashurst, will be reporting on the DIN standard, followed by The Football Association’s Mark Pover, who will be profiling the impact that synthetic turf is having on football development. Representatives from FIFA, IRB and LND will also be presenting on day one. To view the preliminary conference programme, please click here.

As part of ESTO’s commitment to its members, preferential room rates have been negotiated with the Jury’s Inn. Rooms will be priced at £75 (single) and £84 (double), including breakfast.

To book a room, please contact the hotel directly on +44 151 244 3805 and use the booking code THES260913.

For more information on the ESTO Congress 2013 please click here or contact Natasja Faelens on +32 2 676 74 72 or at

English rugby union turns its attention towards synthetic turf

Momentum, they say, is always key in any successful sporting conquest. In which case, the ever-increasing support for the introduction of synthetic turf in rugby union should see artificial surfaces ultimately win out in the battle against natural grass.

As we end the 2012/13 season, there appears to be more and more key decision makers from within the sport beginning to state publicly their interest in synthetic surfaces, as they see the benefits that trailblazers at all levels of the game including Gosforth RFC, Maidenhead RFC and, most recently, Premiership heavyweights Saracens, have highlighted in playing regular fixtures on synthetic turf.     

The introduction of synthetic turf to senior rugby union leagues is a relatively new one, as Gosforth RFC became the first senior rugby team in the UK to play its league fixtures on the surface since moving to Druids Park at the start of the 2007/08 season.

While both Brighton and Moseley RFC had worked with the RFU, Football Association and Football Foundation on successful joint funding bids for new dual sport training facilities, it was Gosforth RFC that can claim to be the original pioneers for a non-grass playing surface in the UK.

The club has a rich history dating back to 1877, but can forever now claim to be at the forefront in a trend that may soon be followed by a number of clubs across all levels, thus opening up a significant new market for European-based synthetic turf manufacturers.        

Fast forward three years and with the momentum building, Maidenhead RFC, a National League 3 South West team that famously nurtured the England flanker James Haskell, hit the sports headlines as they started the 2012/13 season playing on a synthetic surface. As the season comes to an end the debate is increasing further after Saracens moved to Allianz Park to play their final five Aviva Premiership home games on synthetic turf. 

The introduction of synthetic turf at the Allianz Stadium has led to major media interest surrounding the virtues of playing rugby union on a surface other than natural grass. Almost without exception, the feedback from opposing teams has been positive and so with the technical arguments shown to be flawed and as other clubs look at ways to generate new revenues, the prospect of more synthetic turf pitches being installed in the professional game has become increasingly probable. 

“Allowing clubs greater access to the pitch and the benefits this access provides them in increasing non-match day revenues, as well as greater usage of the stadium and the advantages for active supporter engagement means the future for synthetic turf in rugby union looks brighter than at any stage previously,” explains ESTO chairman, Nigel Fletcher.

“We know through our work with the Football League in England and the production of the ESTO Fans Concept report that the issues for the vast majority of professional football clubs across Europe is the same as the challenge for rugby union clubs and synthetic turf could play a significant part of the solution for clubs that need to raise revenues.”

Commenting on the opportunities this could provide the industry and therefore ESTO’s members, Nigel said, “ESTO has worked closely with the International Rugby Board and national rugby unions for a number of years to ensure greater promotion of synthetic surfaces in the sport. Sometimes it just takes one or two clubs to highlight the benefits and others will quickly follow.

“This appears to be what is happening now in England and across the UK, which is potentially excellent news for members.”

With over 3000 rugby clubs registered with the Rugby Football Union in England, many of which own their own pitches, the sport’s authorities are supporting facility development with greater grant aid now available and in the build up to and post the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it would appear that rugby union could offer a significant new revenue stream for ESTO members.

Want to find out more? Here are some useful links…

To download the ESTO Fans Concept click here.

To download the full Technical Document for the Specification of IRB Artificial Rugby Turf Performance Specification – One Turf Technical Manual, click here.

To learn more about the RFU’s policy on synthetic turf click here.

Further information on each of the clubs mentioned in this article can be found on their websites:

Gosforth RFC

Maidenhead RFC

Saracens RFC

ESTO reports back on a positive two days at the Soccerex European Forum

“It’s important that the industry has a presence at events like Soccerex,” explains ESTO chairman Nigel Fletcher, who was reporting back from the ESTO stand at the recent football industry event in Manchester, England.

“When the key decision makers from the global football business meet, whenever we can, we want to be on site to help raise awareness, to educate, answer questions and of course point them in the direction of the industry’s best suppliers, our members! And so taking stand space at events like Soccerex continues to be part of ESTO’s role to drive the debate and sell the benefits of synthetic turf for all sports.”

Representing the industry in a forum attended by leading figures in the global football business covering 90 different leagues and federations including UEFA, AFC, The FA, Russian 2018 LOC, and the EPFL, Soccerex attracted more than 1000 attendees and with ESTO positioned in the heart of the exhibition floor, the quality of the stand design and central location ensured a significant amount of footfall and interest from delegates across the two days.

With representatives from India, South America and Russia visiting the stand as well as the core European audience, the ESTO staff were kept busy throughout the event, supplying delegates with advice and information as well as ESTO publications which, as standard, provide all of our members’ contact details. On attending the event Nigel Fletcher commented further, “the two days have proved very useful from an ESTO perspective. We have made some good contacts for our members, helped educate those interested in the concept of synthetic turf to understand its benefits and highlighted to dozens of visitors our members’ details where potential projects require installation.”

With the next major event attended by ESTO planned for the bi-annual FSB exhibition and conference in Cologne, Nigel confirmed plans are well underway to ensure maximum impact for ESTO at the event and to support the members who also attend: “Our aim is to provide the members with an area that they can use for meetings and entertaining clients. The meeting area will have refreshments on site for members to access, while we will also provide a host of publications for a variety of sectors, promoting not only the use of synthetic turf but also the work of our members, to assist in any business development opportunities.

“FSB is so large in its scale and an important event for a number of the sectors that purchase synthetic turf that again, ESTO should have a presence. Any members also attending will be able to benefit from accessing the stand, using the meeting areas and grabbing a coffee in between what we know is always a busy trade show.”

TigerTurf launches new sports product range at annual event

TigerTurf has officially launched its new, innovative sports range! The accredited synthetic turf provider held its annual event on 21st March, 2013 in order to showcase what is in store for the coming year; invites were sent out to a selected group of consultants as well as TigerTurf’s ‘Premier Partner’ sports contractors. This year’s sports event, held at Silverstone Race Circuit, saw the introduction of their ever evolving sports product range, whilst offering a well-deserved opportunity to have some fun.

The day kicked-off with a morning of presentations and seminars; attendees were given the opportunity to find out more about the products, the advances in technology and maintenance guidelines. Following the launch of the products; the consultants and Premier Partners were let loose, racing the Nissan GTR around the infamous Silverstone international race track and also engaged in a ‘pit stop challenge’ where agility and speed was the key to success. The winners of the challenges were awarded with branded plaques over afternoon tea and were later on spoilt with a gorgeous meal at Whittlebury Hall and Spa.

George Pinner, England Hockey Team Representative, attended the event; “Having spent half my life on pitches it was great to get a bit more knowledge and understanding as to exactly how much effort and time goes into making the perfect pitches that we play on.  It’s also great to see a “made in Britain” company doing well.  The afternoon’s activities were also great fun, whilst getting in the way of a hockey ball hit at great speed doesn’t bother me; I was slightly nervous getting taken round corners at 110mph in a Lotus! Getting to drive the cars round the track was also a great experience; all in all a fantastic and informative day.”

From grass roots to international sport, TigerTurf’s comprehensive range of artificial turf surfaces are manufactured in the UK and supplied across the globe to meet standards recognised for optimum performance and enjoyment. For more information on TigerTurf’s new range of sports performance artificial turfs, please visit or to talk to a representative about specific requirements call 01299 253966.

ESTO seeks positive decision from Football League

The European Synthetic Turf Organisation (ESTO) has pledged its commitment to profiling the benefits of synthetic turf in sport, as it champions a positive decision in advance of the Football League’s review into the use of artificial surfaces next month.

The results of the consultation period, which closed on 30 April 2012, will be released as part of a report to all Member Clubs, when the issues will be debated at Football League Board meetings and at the Chairmen’s Conference on 31 May / 01 June 2012.

The use of synthetic turf in professional football is prevalent throughout the top tiers of the sport in Italy, Holland and France, as well as European competitions including the Europa League and Champions League; indicative of the backing already in place from both UEFA and FIFA.

The option to switch to using synthetic turf does not only guarantee a better playing surface in terms of its consistency and quality, but, significantly, meets a requirement which underpins decisions made by the majority of football clubs, that is, the assurance of financial sustainability.

A synthetic turf pitch provides clubs with a substantial additional revenue stream, by enabling the use of the pitch and the ground’s facilities for commercial use; consequently, it also facilitates wider engagement between the club and its fans and the local community.

Commenting on the impending result from the Football League review, Nigel Fletcher, executive chairman of ESTO, said: “The introduction of synthetic turf within professional football is not only of positive significance to the club itself, but also for a country’s football development strategy; Holland and Italy are just two affirmative examples of this.

“As one of the world’s leading footballing nations, the next step is to allow English clubs the option to experience the momentous benefits that can be created by synthetic turf, for both the Football League clubs and the entire non-league structure.”

The decision will follow the recent announcement from the Football League that will see the implementation of its own Financial Fair Play regulations across all three divisions, based on the similar rulings already in place by UEFA for teams in the top divisions across Europe.

“In the last decade, 23 of the 92 professional clubs in England have entered into some form of administration; eight of which have done so more than once. The introduction of synthetic turf will provide a much-needed financial boost for clubs and a recent report by KPMG, commissioned by ESTO, proves that the business model works,” confirms Nigel Fletcher.

“During my time at FIFA and in my capacity as executive chairman of ESTO, I saw many immediate and positive benefits for clubs who switched to synthetic turf; club development enhanced, community initiatives were established and youth development programmes were launched all because of the durability and quality of the playing surface.

“No longer did you need a sign saying ‘keep off the pitch’. The new pitch was the starting point for a club’s sustainable development, both on and off the pitch, and one must not forget that for many smaller clubs, the pitch can be their most important asset,” explains Nigel Fletcher.

Rob Heys, chief executive of Football League Two side Accrington Stanley, is one of the long-term advocates of a return to synthetic turf. Commenting on how clubs can benefit from synthetic turf, Rob said: “The commercial benefits of installing a synthetic turf pitch really do stack up as there is an income to be gained from hiring the pitch out and money to be saved in maintenance costs.

“The fact we can use the pitch for training as well as the benefit to the community, from getting people down to the ground seven days a week rather than just 23 times a season for home fixtures, would make a massive difference to a club of our size and, I believe, a number of other Football League clubs, all of whom are constantly looking at new ways to generate revenue to continue operating.”

ESTO will be holding a media briefing today (17/05/12) at the Sofitel, St. James, London. The event will profile the benefits and successes of synthetic turf within sport, in advance of the impending announcement from the Football League next month.

IRB and RFU to join ESTO for Rugby Expo workshop

The role of synthetic turf in both professional and community rugby will be highlighted during workshops presented by the European Synthetic Turf Organisation in conjunction with the International Rugby Board and Rugby Football Union during Rugby Expo 2011 at Twickenham on November 23 and 24.

The sessions will consider developments in synthetic turf technology and the ways that appropriate systems can be applied in the uniquely demanding environment of rugby.

Synthetic turf can enable clubs to maximise the use of facilities, increasing participation and maximising training and coaching time. Yet many club officials remain unsure about which systems are appropriate to rugby and the options open to them.

The workshop aims to deliver clarity and help clubs make informed choices about their use of artificial turf.

Steve Griffiths of the International Rugby Board who will take part in the workshop said:

“The opportunity to present at Rugby Expo provides an excellent platform to share debate and discuss a range of issues affecting both the professional and grass roots game. With the developments in artificial turf having the potential to create real positive changes to clubs at all levels, I look forward to working with ESTO and the RFU to present the latest research and result and help clubs looking at the potential of moving to artificial turf.”

Nigel Fletcher, Chairman of the European Synthetic Turf Organisation which works to promote and educate all applications of synthetic turf said, “One of ESTO’s key objectives is to inform clubs, communities, government organisations on the merits both on and off the pitch regarding synthetic turf. This includes its role in increasing playing and participation, supporting healthy lifestyles, increasing community and club development opportunities and having better playing conditions guaranteed all year round. Rugby Expo will provide a great opportunity to share this message with both professional and grass roots rugby clubs.”

The Synthetic Turf Workshop is sure to be one of the highlights of Rugby Expo 2011 and will run on both days.

It is one in a comprehensive series of workshops designed to deliver practical and valuable information, insight and advice ..

Each workshop will be led by experts able to draw on wide ranging experience inside and beyond the world of rugby, to deliver real value.

Workshops will cover subjects including:
Sponsorship: How can rugby widen its sponsorship net by becoming more attractive to partner brands?
Building for Success: Designing and financing the ideal stadium for today’s pro rugby clubs.
Retail: How to create and implement successful merchandising strategies on match day and beyond.
Social media: Harnessing the power of social media for more effective and profitable communication.
Ticketing and membership: Understanding the technology and strategies for building membership and filling your ground.
Elite Performing Teams: On the field, in the dressing room and in the back office – How to build and motivate elite teams to deliver success across every facet of a club’s activities.
Sports science: An introduction to the latest equipment, technology and thinking.

Workshops will be repeated a number of times throughout the day, enabling delegates to create their own conference schedule, according to their individual interests.