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Do you prefer natural grass or artificial turf? It is a question often asked in the world of football. This week, the players’ associations in Denmark and The Netherlands presented their research on this subject. Conclusion: footballers prefer natural grass. 

Artificial turf was introduced in The Netherlands in the 2003/2004 season. Currently six out of 36 professional clubs play their home matches on artificial turf. Two teams play at the highest level: Heracles Almelo and Excelsior. The other four play in the second division: AGOVV, Almere City FC, FC Volendam and FC Zwolle.

The Dutch professional footballers’ association VVCS recently organized a research project amongst all players from the two professional divisions. In total, 538 players participated (approximately 57 percent).

The VVCS research clearly indicates that footballers prefer to play on natural grass: 91.6% picked natural grass, 8.3% said they prefer artificial turf. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average grade for playing football on a natural field was 8.4, while playing on artificial turf was awarded 5.0. 

The players gave the following reasons for choosing natural grass over artificial grass:

  • Football should be played on natural grass: 77.4%
  • Lower risk of injury: 35.7%
  • As long as not all clubs play their home matches on artificial turf, the football competition will be distorted: 24.5%
  • I am used to how the ball bounces: 23.9%.

The three main reasons for players voting in favor of playing on artificial turf are:

  • Maximum ball control: 71.1 
  • Always playable: 62.2%
  • The pitch quality and condition are always the same: 55.6%

The players also rated the quality of the six artificial pitches in The Netherlands on a scale of 1 to 5:

  1. FC Volendam 2.8
  2. Heracles Almelo 2.3
  3. Excelsior and Almere City  2.1
  4. FC Zwolle 2.0
  5. AGOVV 1.8

‘The verdict is clear, the players do not want to play football on artificial turf’, concluded Danny Hesp, president of the VVCS. ‘Even more players than during our previous research in 2006 declared that they prefer playing football on natural grass.’

Hesp says he understands the players' reasons. ‘It might not appear to be a strong motive - saying that football should be played on grass - but I absolutely understand what they are trying to say. Playing football on artificial turf is a totally different experience compared to football on natural grass. It is more of a mixture of futsal and football. It is a totally different game.’