FIFPRO is of the opinion that competitive professional football matches should be played on natural grass at locations where this is possible without any problem.
Various FIFPRO member unions surveyed players in their countries in recent years. All surveys have the same conclusion: we, the players, prefer natural grass.
In October 2019, the player unions of Denmark, Norway and Sweden presented the results of a survey they conducted jointly: 85 percent of players would choose grass and 9% artificial turf. 6% of the 460 players who filled in the questionnaire had no preference.
“You cannot enjoy playing football on these pitches”— by Dutch national team player Davy Klaassen
In 2017, captains of Dutch first division teams and their player union, VVCS, urged the football association (KNVB) and the League to organize top flight matches on natural grass only.
“Pitches like these seriously make you consider leaving the Netherlands”, said then Ajax captain Davy Klaassen. “You cannot enjoy playing football on these pitches.”
“The ball is behaving in a totally different way, which totally changes the game,” said Stijn Schaars, then at SC Heerenveen.
“It takes much more time to recover after matches”, Luuk De Jong (then PSV) added.
“Because of my history with injuries, I unintentionally play much more carefully on artificial turf”, said AZ captain Ron Vlaar.
No scientific evidence
Players have various reasons for wanting to play on natural grass. Among others, they think that playing on artificial pitches changes the game and causes a greater risk for injuries. The latter is also mentioned in the Scandinavian study, with 95% of the players assuming that playing on artificial turf causes more injuries. They also say that switching between playing on both surfaces increases the physical strain on their body.
However, there is no scientific evidence for the claim that playing on artificial pitches leads to a higher risk on injuries, says FIFPRO Medical Chief Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge.
Pitch rating competitions
FIFPRO is not only promoting the qualities of natural grass pitches. We stimulate football organisations to improve the quality of the fields to give players the best opportunity possible to excel on the pitch.
Various member unions organise pitch rating competitions, awarding the best fields and groundsmen in, among others, Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. After each match day, the captains of the away teams are rating the home side’s pitch based on criteria including smoothness, pace and overall quality. At the end of the season, the unions present an award to the winning groundsmen.
The pitch rating competitions have the desired impact: players notice that groundsmen are more engaged as they want to win the competition, which helps improve the quality of football pitches.