FIFA, the global governing body for football, assigns its Quality Label only to artificial football turfs that meet the highest standards. What are the basic principles and parameters FIFA uses to determine such quality?
FIFA’s benchmark for artificial football turf products and systems is a natural turf in good condition. The strict testing procedure consists of two phases, which must be carried out by independent, FIFA-accredited testing institutes.
In the first phase – the laboratory test – the artificial turf is tested for its suitability for football and other quality criteria before installation. The second phase – the field test – takes place on fully installed and ready-to-play pitches and is the principal basis for certification. If an artificial football pitch passes the field test, it means it has met FIFA’s stringent requirements in terms of playing characteristics, safety and quality, and may also be used for competitions at the highest level, including FIFA World Cup matches and UEFA Champions League and Europe League competitions.
Certification in football – the focus of both test phases:
- Interaction between player and playing surface
- Interaction between ball and playing surface
- Product composition
- Resistance to weathering
- Service life
Comparing both tests ensures that a pitch meets the requirements of the FIFA Quality Programme exactly. The completed installation is then awarded the “FIFA Quality” or “FIFA Quality Pro” quality label – for amateur and recreational football and for professional football, respectively.
In addition to the two mandatory tests, FIFA carries out quality checks on randomly selected pitches to help operators use and maintain them correctly. If repair work is necessary, the manufacturer is informed.
Third-generation artificial football pitches
Third-generation artificial turf (3G) featuring a combination of sand and rubber infill was certified by FIFA for the first time. The 3G artificial turf pitches were a breakthrough in the world football and now offer the sport a real alternative to conventional grass pitches. As a future-oriented company, Polytan has been at the forefront of third-generation pitches from the beginning.
As early as 2003 – two years after the FIFA Quality Programme was launched – we participated in the FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf as a licensee and also installed the first FIFA Recommended 2 Star-certified artificial turf pitch.
FC Red Bull Salzburg became one of the first European first division clubs to play on an artificial surface after we equipped Red Bull Arena with an artificial turf system.
Other first division clubs followed, including the Wankdorf Stadium (Stade de Suisse) in Bern and FC Xamax Neuchatel’s La Maladière Stadium. At the U17 World Cup in Peru, all 31 matches were played on artificial turf for the first time in football history – Polytan surfaces were installed in four of the five venues, including the main stadium in Lima and those in Trujillo, Chiclayo and Piura.
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada marked the first time that an entire FIFA World Cup was contested on artificial turf. We installed our artificial turf system LigaTurf RS+ at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium, which staged the final. In addition, Polytan fitted artificial turf pitches at the Home of FIFA in Zurich in 2017.
Stricter FIFA requirements since 2015
The year 2015 marked a significant turning point in the development of artificial turf as FIFA once again tightened its criteria for systems and products. The stricter requirements set out in the FIFA Manual related in particular to the requirements for FIFA Quality Pro certifications for football pitches used at the professional level, taking into particular account the demands of pro clubs and players in top leagues.
With the introduction of the new requirements, FIFA also did away with its old certification processes and designations known as FIFA Recommended 1 Star and FIFA Recommended 2 Star.
The stricter regulations of the 2015 FIFA Manual came into force on 1 January 2017. But here at Polytan, we were already ahead of the game, allowing our artificial turf pitch to become the first to bear the FIFA Quality Pro label as per the new standards.
The pitch in question is located at the Aminess Football Centre in the Croatian coastal town of Novigrad. Working with our partner Maxmar Grupa, we installed the premium football turf system LigaTurf RS Pro II CoolPlus at the end of December 2016, using the EPDM infill granulate Bionic Fibre and a sustainable elastic layer laid as part of the on-site installation process.
The FIFA certification carried out at the beginning of February 2017 confirmed that the playing surface meets the highest standards in terms of playing characteristics, safety, durability and construction. The FIFA Quality Pro label was also a prerequisite for the Aminess Football Club to host recognised international matches and international club competitions.
Successful recertification of artificial football pitches
The fact that our artificial turf is cutting edge and complies with FIFA requirements long after installation is demonstrated by several successful recertifications.FC Bayern Munich is just one example. Since 2017, the football club’s junior and women’s teams have been training at the FC Bayern Campus – a top-class football academy within striking distance of the Allianz Arena that cost 70 million euros to build.
At the time, Polytan installed around 22,000 square metres of artificial turf as well as synthetic surfaces in the outdoor area. Two large pitches, two mini-pitches and the fitness, technical and coordination area were fitted with artificial turf – 20,000 square metres of which were covered with our premium artificial turf system LigaTurf RS Pro II CoolPlus with Bionic Fibre infill granulate. The pitches have recently been recertified by FIFA for the fourth time, once again confirming the high standards and quality of Polytan’s surfaces even after many years of use.
Another example is the Home of FIFA in Zurich, whose pitches have also been successfully recertified for the second time, with a third recertification imminent. The grounds include two small Polytan pitches and a larger one with Polytan LigaTurf RS Pro II featuring Bionic Fibre infill.
Meanwhile at MSK Zilina in Slovakia, our artificial surface at the Štadión pod Dubňom has now been certified for the fifth time.
Polytan licensed as a FIFA Preferred Provider
The FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf is a licensing programme that manufacturers of high-quality artificial turf systems can complete if they meet a number of demanding requirements. Polytan is licensed as a FIFA Preferred Provider.
The initiative was established by FIFA in 2009 to meet the demands for higher-quality artificial turf systems – not only in the product itself, but also in the installation process. The aim of the programme is to protect users’ interests when purchasing pitches and to ensure that artificial football pitches meet the highest standards in terms of quality, performance and safety.
By fulfilling all requirements and reporting to FIFA regularly, Preferred Providers document their commitment to these standards. They not only assume full responsibility for the entire installation process of the turf system vis-à-vis the user, but also provide them with additional information about the product and installation, while assigning in-house specialists to be responsible for maintaining the turf. The requirements for being designated a FIFA Preferred Provider are divided into admission and application criteria. An applicant can only become a FIFA Preferred Provider if it meets both criteria.
The advantages of being a member of the FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf are obvious: As a certified FIFA partner, Polytan will be able to work even more closely with FIFA in the future to further develop high-quality football turf systems and innovative solutions. The challenges here are diverse and demanding – among other things, it is about minimising infill materials to avoid microplastics, exploring alternative infills, recycling and improving playing characteristics, and finding ways to better protect the players. As a FIFA Preferred Provider, Polytan is also in a position to help shape the Quality Programme, requirements and test procedures for artificial turf systems in the future.