• Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Synthetic turf expected to be voted out

Eredivisie to vote synthetic turf out

Clubs in the Eredivisie will vote on 1 December whether or not there is still space for synthetic turf pitches in the highest Dutch football league. Most clubs are expected to vote in favour, but others will be facing significant problems.

Three months after Sportsfields.info received the cold shoulder for posing the question whether clubs were considering voting synthetic turf out following the relegation of Heracles Almelo, the question has been made an agenda point.

Ever since Heracles Almelo became a field lab for TenCate Grass in 2003, the club has been vocal about the advantages of synthetic turf. Following a relegation to the Dutch second division at the end of last season, Heracles Almelo has lost its voting rights in the Dutch Premier League (Eredivisie).

With Heracles Almelo gone, clubs in the Eredivisie may now use the opportunity to vote synthetic turf out of the league permanently.

Better for the future of Dutch football

Most of the clubs that represent the Netherlands in international leagues like the Champions League or Europa League blame the large number of synthetic turf surfaces in the Dutch league for their failure to attract top players to the Dutch league. At one point, almost half of the clubs in the two top leagues played on synthetic turf at home.

Ever since a large group of former players and coaches drafted a roadmap to bring Dutch football back into international competitions, removing synthetic turf has become a hotly debated topic.

While top clubs like Ajax, Feyenoord, AZ and PSV can’t wait to see the back of it, other, smaller clubs hail the plastic surface.

It saves them the financial investments in training facilities and allows them to use the stadium more often.

Compensation the next step?

When approached by Sportsfields.info, the league organiser refused to discuss the topic. All that is known is that, if accepted, the ban would become effective from the 2025/2026 season. This should give clubs still using synthetic turf sufficient time to start planning and budgeting for a natural grass surface, unless they don’t foresee maintaining a seat in or promotion to the Dutch Eredivisie in the near future, as the ban will not be effective in the second division.

Excelsior FC, one of the four clubs in the Eredivisie currently playing on synthetic turf, has already indicated that it will need support to make the changeover. Excelsior FC is currently sitting in 10th place at the table. The club from Rotterdam uses its stadium field for games and training sessions for many more teams than just its main squad. It even had a new surface installed in July last year. Synthetic turf fields in the Dutch Eredivisie are usually depreciated over five years.

Done deal?

It is widely expected that clubs will vote in favour of the ban. Some clubs that currently play on synthetic turf have already started planning a switchover to natural grass or a hybrid surface.

This includes Heracles Almelo.

Clubs in the Eredivisie that play on a natural grass or hybrid surface and that do not participate in a European competition can benefit from an incentive that pays out up to EUR 350,000 per season when their stadium surface performs well. All fields are assessed by a testing institute three times per season. As soon as the field has passed two of the three tests, the funds are made available to the club. However, how the club will spend the money is up to the club, meaning there is no guarantee that the incentive is invested back into the surface.

Guy Oldenkotte

Guy Oldenkotte is senior editor of sportsfields.info and has been covering the outdoor sportssurfaces market and industry since 2003

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