It will only be a matter of time before Heracles Almelo plays on natural turf again. Technical Director Nico-Jan Hoogma does not know yet exactly when that will be, but “if we get promoted to the Dutch Premier League, the process will certainly be accelerated.”
The team from Almelo has been playing on synthetic turf since 2003. Back in the day, Heracles Almelo was one of five participants in a UEFA project in which synthetic turf for football at the highest level was being tested. Over the years, the club has always remained a strong advocate of synthetic turf, even for use at the highest football levels. This was not least because of the support it received from TenCate.
“It doesn’t make sense to lay natural turf inside the stadium right now, because half of the clubs in the first division play on synthetic turf. But in the long run, we as a club would really like to go in that direction again”
Nico-Jan Hoogma, Heracles Almelo
The headquarters of the Royal TenCate holding company used to be in Almelo before the company was divided into separate parts. Nevertheless, Heracles Almelo has always remained an important development partner for TenCate Grass in Nijverdal.
Is there still a future for artificial grass?
Following the relegation at the end of last season, Hoogma now seems to be drawing his own conclusions. “It doesn’t make sense to lay natural turf inside the stadium right now, because half of the clubs in the first division play on synthetic turf. But in the long run, we as a club would really like to go in that direction again,” he stated on a local TV station.
Call for grass getting louder
Hoogma’s remark is not surprising, as both players and administrators in professional football are increasingly advocating to play games only on natural turf. This is also encouraged by the organisers of the Dutch Premier League. Clubs whose natural turf or hybrid stadium pitch complies with the new standard for natural turf stadium surfaces for at least two of the three inspections a season will receive up to EUR 300,000 support at the end of the season. The clubs can spend that money freely.
That amount could mean a lot to Heracles Almelo. According to Hoogma, the club’s General Manager Rob Toussaint has been working on plans to separate from synthetic turf for some time. Finding training facilities is vital to these plans. At present, the club also uses the stadium field for its training sessions. “I think we’ll need more than a million euros [to facilitate all this]. Anyway, it’s not the issue at present, but we are working on it.”