A deal with TV broadcasters in the Netherlands and a new training complex that could become a catalyst for lifting a synthetic turf stadium field in Scotland, could herald the end of synthetic turf in two more leagues.
Earlier this year, the Dutch Eredivisie were the first to ban synthetic turf surfaces in the highest Dutch football league from the 2025-2026 season.
The introduction of an incentive for clubs playing on natural turf, providing the surface passes some basic tests at least twice out of three tests during a season, has vastly contributed to a switch to natural turf as well as an improvement of the surfaces in this league.
Now the Eredivisie has renewed its broadcasting deal with ESPN, the concept might also be rolled out to the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, the Dutch premiership.
Part of the deal is that 15% of the approximately EUR 140 million ESPN-owner Disney is guaranteeing per year will be directed to the Keuken Kampioen Division. The deal also includes the televising of all matches in the Keuken Kampioen Division.
At present, eight clubs in this league play their home games on synthetic turf. Even a small portion of the EUR 21 million could go a long way to improve the stadium surfaces used for this league, as well as to stimulate clubs currently playing on synthetic turf to invest in a natural turf surface.
However, for a ban on synthetic turf in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie to be implemented, clubs would first have to introduce and adopt such a motion. This will not happen before mid-2024. Given the need for a transition, a possible ban on synthetic turf surfaces in the Keuken Kampioen Division is unlikely to happen before the 2026-2027 season.
New training complex
In Scotland, such a ban has become more likely following the announcement that Kilmarnock is considering replacing their synthetic surface at Rugby Park with natural turf. As the club is making progress regarding the establishing of the Bowie Park training facility, a synthetic turf stadium surface will soon no longer be needed.
Bowie Park will get two full-size pitches and will serve as a base for the Kilmarnock women’s team as well as the heart of the youth academy.
According to Billy Bowie, the major shareholder of the club, the opening of this new facility in Q3 next year could be a catalyst for lifting the synthetic turf surface at their stadium. He is already planning matches to be played on grass from the 2025-2026 season onwards.
If Kilmarnock switched to a natural or hybrid surface, only Livingston would play on synthetic turf
in the Scottish premiership. Regulations in the Scottish league stipulate that for a vote (on banning synthetic turf) to pass, it would need a result of 11-1.
It unknown whether clubs in the Scottish premiership are already considering tabling a motion to ban synthetic turf.