The upcoming FIFA manuals for quality synthetic turf football surfaces will stipulate that it will have to be verified whether the shockpad used in the installation is similar to the one submitted for the mandatory laboratory test.
At present, the mandatory inspections to obtain a FIFA Quality or FIFA Quality Pro certificate for an installed pitch focuses on only the top layer of the system. As the shock absorbing layer is not immediately visible, it is simply not looked at. However, as the market is increasingly being flooded with cheap foam products, some installers or sub-contractors have started abusing the ignorance. Instead of continuing to use the prefabricated shockpad that was used for the mandatory laboratory test to enter the list with FIFA approved products, they have used a cheaper option to deliver the project.
As FIFA and World Rugby acknowledge that a shock absorbing layer contributes to the safety and comfort of the players and the longevity of the carpet, the possibility of a shockpad being installed of which the quality (in the long term) has not been verified and accepted, has alarmed both sports governing bodies. They have now decided to close this loophole.
Problems in the long term
In most countries, a FIFA Quality or FIFA Quality Pro project is only tested upon delivery of the project. They might be re-tested only several years later.
As each foam, irrespective of its quality, will be able to deliver the cushioning parameters the testers are looking for at this one-off test, a project with such a product will still be able to obtain FIFA certification.
The problem arises in the long run, as the cheaper prefabricated shockpads tend to lose their elasticity much faster. Virtually all suppliers of shockpads that have passed the FIFA laboratory test guarantee a performance of at least 20 years. Using an inferior quality shockpad creates a false sense of safety and can also result in the synthetic turf carpet wearing faster, thereby contributing to the problem of microplastics pollution.
Hockey as an example
FIFA and World Rugby have now decided to follow a similar route as the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has taken. In addition to the type of synthetic turf surface, the FIH certificate for approved hockey turf projects also lists the specs of the shockpad used.
Asked by when the new manuals will be available, a FIFA spokesperson told Sportsfields.info that they are currently aiming for releasing the updated documents in the second quarter of next year.
Subscribers with an Explorer account can find the versions currently used in the Governing Bodies section of our digital library. They also benefit from the various studies on shockpads and shockpad quality we have we captured while working on an article.