Womens' World Cup Shows Synthetic's Suitability for Both Genders

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup has had various debates over the opportunities and benefits 3G can bring to elite sport - here we take a closer look at synthetic turf's suitability for both male and female athletes.

With the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup entering its latter stages as the first global football tournament to be played entirely on artificial turf; every match, across the six host cities, the debate over the opportunities that 3G can bring to elite sport has been thrown into the spotlight.

The decision to install synthetic turf throughout all WWC stadiums in Canada caused much discussion in the months leading up to the competition, where as far back as last October a group of players led by America captain, Abby Wambach, voiced disapproval at the turf’s use. Months later following a period of sustained calm, Megan Rapinoe, a veteran USA international and key figure during the protest’s initial stages, again reiterated her opposition to Canada’s use of 3G, concerned over the turf’s ball control, increased injury risk and suitability for professional sport. In reality, the truth is very different.

Hysteria has clouded sense with many, including the players at the World Cup, swept along in the mass furore generated when people are faced with something that challenges the norm. The Football Association believes the ongoing tournament is the most exciting to date, inspiring young women throughout the UK to take up the sport, something for which the synthetic pitches can be praised. Football surfaces are changing and 3G is set to become more and more prevalent in football over the coming years; male and female, youth and adult, amateur and professional – after all, some of the world’s best playing surfaces are synthetic, including those currently in use in Canada.

Numerous studies, rigorous testing, extensive research and comprehensive data have proven time and again synthetic’s safety and suitability for both male and female football. A recent study by Cardiff University found no difference in the physiological response of players to natural or synthetic turf. Sports analytics organization, Prozone, found no differences in the match statistics of synthetic and natural games, refuting Wambach’s claims that more goals are scored on the latter. Both governing bodies and independent organizations, supported by practical application, have found injury risk is not increased on 3G, with pitches comfortable and having to adhere to strict head impact criteria guidelines to be cleared for use.

Bryn Lee is Global Business Director at Bonar Yarns, the synthetic yarn supplier whose fibres were incorporated into the pitch at this year’s World Cup Montreal Olympic Stadium. He explained, ‘Opinions on 3G’s inferiority to natural grass are largely emotional rather than logical since many of the objections raised have been robustly disproved. In this World Cup we have seen fast, safe, entertaining football. The two concerns have been related to rubber splash and dry pitches. Both easily overcome with the right stadia design. This means ensuring there is a shock pad under the surface, sufficient yarn in the pitch and a watering system for high temperatures. Even natural turf pitches are watered to improve playing characteristics, so it is reasonable to expect stadia fields to be watered before use as well. Otherwise the tournament has shown that synthetic turf is the future for football.’

Whether male or female, the credentials of artificial turf should not be in question. Eventually new systems and innovations must be incorporated into sport and the players in Canada need only look at facts and the increasing support that synthetic pitches are gathering to see that they are being given the first opportunity to benefit in a major tournament.